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THE “idiotic” annihilation of a four-wheel drive that became stuck on a railway track in Katherine on Sunday morning provides a graphic safety reminder for motorists, according to the boss of the freight company whose 7100-tonne manganese train caused the damage.
At about 1am on October 12, a Toyota HiLux was destroyed after its 23-year-old driver attempted to traverse the track on the western outskirts of the town and, after getting it stuck, watched in horror as the locomotive impacted and then dragged the vehicle about for about one kilometre.
The train – which is owned by Genesee and Wyoming Australia - was carting manganese from the Bootu Creek mine, 110km north of Tennant Creek, and bound for Darwin when the incident occurred.
Neither the driver of the locomotive or the four-wheel driver were injured but GWA managing director Greg Pauline said the company could be looking at a repair bill of up to of $300,000.
“It depends on how much track damage has been done,” he explained.
“Clearly, [the four-wheel drive] would have been hitting signals and sleepers, and all those things as it got dragged.
“There could be considerable mechanical damage to the loco, too.
“We just don’t know until we do a full investigation.
“It could be as high as two or three hundred thousand dollars; if we’re lucky, it could be as little as $100,000.”
Mr Pauline said praised the police response to the incident, adding that, while he thought the driver of the four-wheel drive had been "idiotic", he believed it provided a timely reminder about the danger involved with not using designated rail crossings.
“I was extremely angry when I heard about this,” he said.
“It’s an extremely risky thing to do, to try and mount an embankment.
“The ballast below the sleepers can be loose; they aren’t designed to drive over, even with a four-wheel drive.
“Unfortunately, in the rail industry, it’s not an uncommon practice and it can be a bit frustrating for those living with a rail line bisecting their properties, but they’re taking their life into their own hands.”
Katherine police Commander Bruce Porter said Northern Investigations Section detectives would “have carriage of any possible charges in regard to this incident”.
It is believed the four-wheel drive was uninsured.
The four-wheel drive was dragged for almost one kilometre under the locomotive after the impact. Photo: NORTHERN TERRITORY POLICE
This article first appeared on www.katherinetimes.com.au
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