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A TRUCK driver who collided with a train at a Pirron Yallock level crossing last year could not be found to be at fault, a court has heard.
Keith William McPherson, of an undisclosed Ballarat address, appeared in Colac Magistrates’ Court accused of driving a motor vehicle carelessly. The charge was later withdrawn.
Mr McPherson started work at 8am in Cranbourne, southeast of Melbourne, on July 13- the day of the collision.
He travelled to Tottenham, in Melbourne’s inner-west where his trailer was loaded with canola meal before heading more than 150 kilometres to Colac, where he dropped off one trailer at a company depot.
He then contacted a Larpent farmer who was the owner of a property that he was required to unload 27 tonne of canola meal in the remaining trailer. While travelling to the property, he approached the level crossing at Phalps Rd.
The crossing was controlled only by a stop sign.
Mr McPherson stopped the truck just short of the stop sign and looked to the left and right.
He took his seatbelt off and leaned forward in order to get a better view of the train tracks but did not see any train approaching from either Colac or Warrnambool.
Having not seen any approaching train, Mr McPherson then began to drive across the level crossing, failing to put his seat belt back on. His prime mover made it across the tracks but the trailer behind was struck by the approaching train.
Three carriages were derailed although they stayed upright with Mr McPherson receiving extensive non-serious injuries.
Varying injuries were sustained by passengers on-board, although none were life threatening.
Magistrate Ann McGarvie said the collision was a pure accident and that improvement work conducted in the aftermath of the crash emphasised the pre-existing dangers with the Phalps Rd level crossing.
“If those changes (to the level crossing) have been made as a result of your accident, that’s a good thing, at least for future drivers,” Ms McGarvie said.
“According to the summary, you did stop, you did take off your seat belt so you lean forward so you could lean forward to see further.
I accept that it was a pure accident, that it wasn’t your fault but if you take it (the seat belt) off, then you need to pop it back in — for your own safety — your injuries may have been substantially less.”
Mr McPherson was fined $640 with $79 statutory costs for failing to fill out his log book correctly and received three demerit points for not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the July 13 collision.
The installation of boom gates, bells and flashing lights at the Phalps Rd level crossing was completed in August, less than five weeks following the collision.
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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