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FORTY passengers were lucky to escape with their lives when their V-Line train became airborne after it was hit by a truck at a level crossing.
Truck driver Geoff Young died when his vehicle slammed into the locomotive in Somerville on the Mornington Peninsula about 10.30am yesterday.
The impact launched the diesel engine and the first two carriages into the air.
Miraculously, the train landed back on the tracks.
Several passengers were knocked to the floor but none was seriously hurt.
The Bungower Rd crossing has lights but no boom gates.
Yesterday's near-disaster, following the Kerang tragedy two months ago in which 11 people were killed, again raised questions about the safety of level crossings.
Conductor David Williams, 43, was on board the Connex-operated Frankston service from Stony Point.
Mr Williams, who has 19 years' experience, said it was a fluke no passengers were killed.
"These crossings need to be upgraded," he said.
"If something like this can happen, it can happen again.
"It's extremely lucky no passengers were killed because the train became airborne on impact and then landed back on the tracks."
Truckie Geoff Young, from Tyabb, was described as a devoted family man on the verge of retirement.
Family friend Michele Kohlar said she was shocked to hear of the accident.
"He comes from around here and he knows that crossing," she said.
"He's very careful with everything he does. I just can't believe that he would go through it (the crossing).
"He was going to retire at the end of the year and go around Australia."
Passenger Shelley Lackington, 23, who was in the first carriage, pleaded with truck drivers to be careful.
"People just need to understand that when there's a train signal going they need to stop," said Ms Lackington, from Baxter.
"I hope the Government, or whoever is in charge of this, can see there needs to be more signals and barriers, because no one needs this.
"I'm very shaken."
Local resident Kim Alp, 21, pleaded with the State Government to install boom gates at the crossing.
"It's a time-bomb. The signals are faulty all the time and it's quite scary," Ms Alp said.
A spokeswoman for Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said the Bungower Road crossing was not on a list of 40 to be upgraded this year.
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