A bus driver is dead and 40 people have escaped the vehicle, some with moderate injuries, after colliding with a train at an intersection between Bunnythorpe and Palmerston North.
The collision occurred at the intersection of Railway Rd and Clevely Line, about 2 miles from Bunnythorpe, shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Senior Police Sergeant Phil Ward said the bus driver, a female, died at the scene of the accident. The bus was heading to Feilding High School and tried to cross the train tracks before the train had completely cleared the road.
The bus collided with the back of the train despite the lights and sirens at the railway crossing.
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Ward said sunstroke may have been a factor.
A triage system was set up for students and civilians on board and high school teachers and counselors participated to help.
He said the situation was traumatic and scary for the children to get involved, but they were all calm, equal and caring for each other.
Ward said the six people sent to the hospital had minor cuts and scratches. It is understood that they have all been released.
Police urged witnesses to come forward as officers worked to determine what happened.
High School Principal Nathan Stewart said there were about 25 students from the school on the bus.
It was a public bus traveling from Palmerston North to Feilding. They will be fine.
He said five students had gone to the hospital and he believed hospital staff were checking that they were okay.
The other 20 students had been picked up by their parents and had gone home to spend time with their families.
It’s extremely unfortunate for the bus driver and our thoughts are with [their] family, but we believe everyone else is safe and will be fine.
He said the support for the students at the hospital had been fantastic.
St John Manawat Territory Manager Jeff Mabbett said the six injured people were taken to the emergency department at Palmerston North Hospital.
“Buses versus any vehicle usually cause catastrophic damage, so only six patients transported to the hospital is fine.”
He said there was extreme damage to the front of the bus, but fortunately most of the children were able to get off the bus on their own and safely.
“We know mostly high school students and the biggest thing we experience is that parents rush to the scene to check if they are their children.”
The children were wrapped in blankets after being pulled out of a window and many of them were collected by the parents.
One person was trapped on the bus, said Fire and Emergency spokesman Carlos Dempsey.
KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said he was shocked and saddened to learn of the crash this morning.
KiwiRail staff are on site, working with emergency services and supporting the train driver who is physically unharmed but naturally shocked by the incident.
KiwiRail will be providing support to the schools involved and the bus company and I send my thoughts, and to all KiwiRail staff, to everyone involved in this incident.
Horizons Regional Council transportation manager Rhona Hewitt said the matter was being handled by police and the passengers on the bus were being cared for by the bus operator.
Buses will operate overtime. However, we were doing our best to collect passengers from all stops and there may be delays.
stuff contacted the bus company Uzabus and was told there was no one available to comment on the crash.
Deviations for drivers were in place on Railway Rd and Dixon Line. The road reopened later in the morning after the scene was blessed.
Railway safety charity TrustSafe NZ Foundation Manager Megan Drayton was saddened to hear of the crash.
“This incident serves as an absolutely tragic reminder of how serious the outcome can be when a heavy vehicle collides with a train. Hopefully an incident like this never happens again.”
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