‘I thought I was going to die’

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Debbie Craig has spent the past five years battling cancer, only to come within 30 seconds of losing her life in a nearcollision with a train.
The Timaru woman is now urging others to check both ways when crossing a railway line after she and her family had a near-death experience at an intersection in Rangiora recently.
‘‘I thought I was going to die,’’ she said.
Mrs Craig, her two daughters, 4-month-old granddaughter and horse trainer were travelling home to Timaru from Rangiora on May 10 after a horse race when they came to a railway line by the corner of Fernside and Lineside Rds.
‘‘It wasn’t until we pulled up to the intersection that we realised it was too narrow to fit both the vehicle and the horse float between the track and the road.
‘‘This meant the float was left sitting on the track while we waited to turn,’’ Mrs Craig said.
The railway warning lights and bells had not begun until after the vehicle crossed the line.
‘‘To my horror, once over the track I saw the train approaching with its headlights on [and] the horn blasting.’’
Mrs Craig said there was nothing they could do but stay put.
‘‘The traffic just kept coming and coming and we couldn’t go back and we couldn’t turn.
‘‘There was absolutely nothing we could do but wait.’’
A bowel cancer survivor, Mrs Craig said her life flashed before her as the train approached.
‘‘My thoughts at the time were ‘I have survived cancer for five years only for us to be wiped out by a train’.
‘‘We totally froze in the car, as we had nowhere to go in any direction and less than 30 seconds before impact.’’
Mrs Craig said she and her family owed their lives to motorist Kelly Sintes, who could see the incident unfolding.
‘‘He stopped his vehicle and the accompanying traffic to let us move off the tracks.
‘‘We owe our lives to him.
‘‘We were in shock after the incident. We just sort of waved and drove off.
‘‘We were in shock the whole way back home.’’ The motorist later contacted Mrs Craig. ‘‘I . . . sent him a reward and a thank you card labelling him a hero, which he most certainly was. ‘‘We were just so grateful to him. If it wasn’t for him, the outcome might certainly have been a lot different.’’ Mrs Craig wants to warn other motorists of the dangers of relying on technology and electrics. ‘‘The warning bells came on after we had stopped our vehicle. ‘‘People need to look both ways at railways in case something fails and the warning bells don’t go. In a flash, everything can just change.’’ KiwiRail is looking into the incident.