Pongakawa crash victims named

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Police have named the two people who died in a crash between a car and a train in Pongakawa on Wednesday.

They are 34 year old Chary Sabalande and 32 year old Roymark Bering.

Both had arrived recently from the Phillippines and were living and working as fruit pickers in the Western Bay of Plenty.

The pair were killed, and three more seriously injured, when their vehicle collided with a train at the Pongakawa School Road rail crossing.

Two remain in hospital in a critical condition, and one has been discharged.

In a statement released yesterday KiwiRail has signalled its plans to upgrade warnings early next year.

It says the crossing already has warning lights and bells, but they plan to install half-barrier arms in the first part of next year.

The installation will be included in an ongoing programme, costing 26 million dollars over two years to improve safety at 30 road crossings.

The national rail operator says there are more than three thousand level crossings in the country across both public and private roads and pedestrian crossings and they are being progressively upgraded.

KiwiRail adds that there've been a number of near-misses but no collisions on the School Road crossing until this week.

Sam Gardner