VIC, Kerang train crash 'sounded like bomb going off'

dateline= Wrote:WHEN a semi-trailer collided with a train near Kerang in 2007 it sounded like a \"muffled bomb going off\", a Victorian court has heard.
Christiaan Scholl of Wangaratta, the truck driver involved in the June 2007 incident which claimed the lives of 11 people, is on trial in the Victorian Supreme Court in Bendigo.

Mr Scholl has pleaded not gulity to 19 offences, including 11 counts of culpable driving and charges of negligence causing serious injury.

In the opening address of Crown Prosecutor Peter Rose, SC, the jury was given an account of the scene within the Melbourne-bound V/Line passenger train, immedaitely after Mr Scholl’s semi-trailer had crashed into its second carriage.

Mr Rose told the court surviving passengers said, “fine dust choked the carriage” and “bodies were lying on top of each other.”

One female passenger travelling in the train’s front carriage described the sound of the impact as “a muffled bomb going off,” Mr Rose said. The passenger said there was dust everywhere and two thirds of the (second) carriage was missing.

Mr Scholl has been a professional truck driver since 1983. He frequently drove from Wangaratta to Adeliade via the same route and was familiar with the level crossing where the crash happened, Mr Rose said.

“He passed this level crossings many hundreds of time and was very familiar with the crossing,” he said.

The Crown said a number of witnesses who were travelling on the Murray Valley Highway, toward the level crossing at the same time as Mr Scholl, will be called to give evidence.

One witness will tell the jury that he formed the belief that Mr Scholl had not seen the train, Mr Rose said.

Mr Rose said train driver Barry Lidster had seen Mr Scholl’s semi-trailer before the crash and had activated the train’s warning signals when it was abuot 400m away from the level crossing.

“Mr Lidster looked to his right and saw a white truck,” Mr Rose said.

“He estimated that the truck was too far from the crossing to cross before the train reached the crossing,” he said.

Mr Rose said the train driver then realised the truck was travelling too fast to be able to stop before the crossing. “He (Mr Lidster) realised there was nothing he could do to stop the collision,” he said.

The court heard that some of the passengers on board the train had seen Mr Scholl’s truck, driving at about the 100km speed limit.

Ten passengers travelling in the train’s second carriage, and one passenger in the third carriage, died as a result of the accident.

Giving his directions to the jury Justice Kaye said, “this case is one that arises out of tragedy.” He instructed the jurors to put to one side any feelings that they may have that “someone is responsible and some one must pay” for the loss of lives, and decide the case on a fair assessment of the evidence.

The jury will visit the level crossing just north of Kerang where the accident occurred tomorrow and will commence on Thursday.

The trail continues this afternoon.
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