STORY / ARTICLE: WAITOMO NEWS – www.waitomonews.co.nz
A TE KUITI teenager, who was killed after being hit by a freight train while running to get help for his brother, will be farewelled in Taharoa today.
Ngaremu Teremoe King died on Sunday night after being struck by the north-bound train at about 6pm.
The tragedy occurred near the town’s i-SITE building.
The 14-year-old Te Kuiti High School student was running to get help for his older sibling who had fallen from a bike at the nearby Skate Park which is directly adjacent to the railway lines.
Ngaremu crossed the main trunk line and was running back with a friend when he was hit.
His friend was not injured.
The main trunk line was closed for about four hours while Waikato Police serious crash unit officers investigated.
Waitomo mayor Brian Hanna met with King’s parents Terence and Lydia, at their home on Tuesday for a special farewell ceremony.
“They are a very tight whanau and it’s fair to say they are all totally devastated,” says Mr Hanna.
“I feel so sorry for Ngaremu because he was only going to get aid for his mate and he obviously didn’t hear or see the approaching train.
“According to our youth services manager, he was a neat young fella with a great attitude towards life who punched above his weight in everything he did.
“It’s a very numbing time for our whole community and our thoughts are with the King family.”
Mr Hanna met with KiwiRail Hamilton south area manager Wayne Stewart yesterday to ask for more safety barriers to be installed alongside the main trunk line.
“There was a comment in the Waikato Times regarding the rail corridor that said ‘people have to take responsibility for themselves, but how do you save people from themselves?
Well, fencing it off is the option.
“I’ve told KiwiRail quite bluntly that is what we’re looking for as a solution and the reception I’ve had to date has been quite receptive.”
The extra fencing Mr Hanna is pushing for on the eastern side is from the public toilets opposite The Warehouse, to where the fence currently ends, and on the western side from the VTNZ building past the Skate Park.
Although safety barriers were installed along the northern end of the main trunk line in Te Kuiti after a man was struck and killed by a train in the town in December 2011, large parts of the rail corridor are still exposed.
“Ngaremu’s death just highlights an issue we really have to push with KiwiRail to see how we can make that corridor safer for our community,” says Mr Hanna.
“The aim is to make it more difficult for people to take the easy option and cut straight across the railway lines.
“The difficulty we have is, this is a railway town, with several lines running through it, but we need to create a clear and obvious pedestrian channel on both sides so that the overbridge becomes the preferred option.
“I know funds are limited and I understand the issues KiwiRail face with the amount of small towns in New Zealand that have railway lines through them but, you can’t put a value on someone’s life.”
The result of the meeting with Mr Stewart will be known at a later date.
A KiwiRail spokesperson, who did not wish to be named, says when a fatality happens on the rail network, KiwiRail works with the local community to understand the contributing factors and identify any changes that are needed.
“This is a tragic and timely reminder of the need to be vigilant at all times near the rail tracks.
“Only ever use proper rail crossing points and when doing so obey warning signs.
“It’s important to always stop, look and listen carefully for trains – they can come at any time in any direction, move quickly and quietly and, they take a long distance to stop because they are heavy.”
She says the freight train involved in the incident was heading from Wellington to Auckland and the driver has been given time off to receiving counselling.
“We’re all deeply saddened by what has happened.
“It always really affects our guys – the mood is very sombre here, especially so with the team in Hamilton.
“Our thoughts are with the family at this sad and difficult time.”
Te Kuiti Police Sergeant Craig Lindstrom says King’s death has been referred to the Coroner.
“This is a very tragic circumstance and our thoughts are with the family,” he says.
“We are continuing our inquiries on behalf of the Coroner so we are asking any members of the public who were privy to the incident and haven’t been contacted by the police to come forward.”