06 August 2007

Another Ghan collision

Once again the Ghan has been involved in an accident, this time at a private and IMO not well marked level crossing near Two Wells (about 40km north of Adelaide).

The pictures, which I took this afternoon, show the remains of the truck (amazingly the driver seems to have survived with relatively minor injuries), and temporary repairs being made to the leading locomotive.

The ABC reports that an investigation into the cause of the accident has begun. I'll be interested to see the outcome.

Update 7 August

Today's Australian has a detailed report of the event with a couple of v good pictures (which don't appear online). An extract (with some points highlighted):

Yesterday's accident happened on a straight stretch of track that should have made the oncoming express, travelling at an average speed of 80km/h, visible for several kilometres as it approached the level crossing.

This was marked with stop signs and an alert to drivers to look for trains, but no warning lights or boomgates.

But witnesses to the crash said it was possible the local truck driver's view of the crossing had been obscured by trees and vegetation overgrowing its northern approach.

After turning right off the main road running parallel to the tracks, on to a dirt access road crossing them, the truck was broadsided by the train when partly across the line.

The force of the impact ripped the driver's cabin from the chassis and sent liquid from its ruptured tank showering 50m into the air.

"We felt the ground shake," said train spotter Matthew Stewart, who was preparing to video The Ghan passing a northbound freight train at the time of the accident.

"It was just like a tremendous bang ... like a big bag of water exploding.

"I'm surprised that the truck driver is alive. If the train had been going faster it could have had worse consequences."

Mr Stewart said it was "unacceptable" for thick growth to be so close to the crossing.

"There is not enough clearance," he said. "The truck just went straight across. He didn't even give way, he just went straight though."

The Australian Road Track Corporation, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Transport SA, and South Australian police will investigate the crash.

Police superintendent Ferdi Pit said it was difficult to believe no one was killed in the accident.

"If you look at the truck, it's completely destroyed," he said. "It is a miracle that the driver of that truck is not dead."

The driver, a member of the local Country Fire Service, remained conscious and talking as fellow volunteers pulled him from the wreckage.

Ray Bryant, group officer of the Light CFS, said the man had a family with three teenage children and was well known in the community.

"He's an average sort of a bloke, trying to make a buck," Mr Bryant said. "This is a busy track, so if they're locals they should know that trains are going up and down all the time."

This photo from the ABC website shows how far the septic tank carried on the truck was flung by the impact, apparently losing its contents in the process (the Ghan hits the sh*t?).

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