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Search for survivors continues in Vic train s -

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Search for survivors continues in Vic train smash

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Ten people are confirmed dead and dozens injured after a semi-trailer crashed into a passenger
train at a level crossing in Victoria. The death toll is expected to rise in the next few hours
with a number of people still trapped in the wreckage.


KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. Rescue workers are still searching for survivors tonight
from one of the country's worst rail disasters. Ten people are confirmed dead, dozens injured after
a semi trailer crashed into a passenger train at a level crossing in north-west Victoria. The death
toll is expected to rise, with a number of people still trapped in the wreckage.

And the Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, has arrived for a briefing at the crash site near Kerang.
The Police Major Accidents Unit is also there, as is the State Coroner. And joining me now is local
SES (State Emergency Service) unit controller, Shane Leerson, who was on the scene within minutes
of the accident.

(to Shane Leerson) Shane Leerson, as I understand it you were there within 10 minutes of the actual
collision, what was the sight that met your eyes? How difficult a situation was it as a rescue?

SHANE LEERSON, STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE: Yeah look, that's right. Ten minutes, we were here. We
arrived on scene to a horrific sight. A semi had collided with the side of the train, of course
tearing the number two carriage clean open. The train had travelled down the tracks quite a way, so
it made it very hard for us to get our equipment to the carriages. A lot of it had to be carried in
by hand and four wheel drive, due to the muddy conditions we've got up here at this stage.

SHANE LEERSON: On approaching the actual carriages, again, very horrific. Ambulance officers were
on scene in the carriage. We liaised with those of course, and we were able to gain access, and
create access to a lot of the casualties that were caught amongst the seats and the wreckage, and
extricate a couple and then assisted with those who weren't trapped.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So, how many ... how many were able to walk clear, how many did you have to actually
cut out?

SHANE LEERSON: The walking casualties, I couldn't say for sure. A lot were already out of the
carriages when we arrived. We extricated two casualties who were stuck in amongst the seating,
using our cutters to remove the seats and then there was another number of casualties, which we
were able to just lift out of their seats onto stretchers and assist ambos to get them to the
ambulances and helicopters that were here on scene.

KERRY O'BRIEN: In the conditions, are you going to be able to work through the night because we do
understand that some are still trapped?

SHANE LEERSON: Yeah, I believe so. There are people still trapped of course, deceased. We believe
that the police are going to continue with a lot of their investigations through part of the night.
It does look at this stage we possibly will be stood down until early hours of the morning, and for
a lot better light for us. As you can see behind me the wreckage is there. We've got lights
lighting up at this stage but it is very difficult to work under those circumstances. With the dew
settling down, things become slippery and very hard to manage. Just safety for our guys comes first
of course, and I think, you know, at sunrise we will probably get in there and do what we've got to

KERRY O'BRIEN: Shane, I understand there were no boom gates at this crossing but is it correct that
although there's a bit of a bend leading to the crossing, it should be a clear view from the road
to the rail and vice versa?

SHANE LEERSON: Yes you're right, there's no boom gates on this, being a major highway to our
northern towns. But it is signposted and lights and bells were working on the day, I believe. And
yeah, the road is fairly clear and you know, I can't comment any further on what may have caused

KERRY O'BRIEN: Does the crossing have any previous history?

SHANE LEERSON: It does. We had a bad one 10 or 11 years ago. A car was waiting for the train and a
truck again actually hit the back of the car sending it across the tracks in front of the train.
The train was not involved, but we ended up with one deceased on that one also.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Shane look, I understand it's a very difficult time but thanks very much for joining
us tonight, thank you.

SHANE LEERSON: Yeah no worries, thank you.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Shane Leerson from the Victorian SES.

(c) 2007 ABC