Heartbroken parents of dead teen warn of headphones danger

The heartbroken parents of a teenager killed by a train have joined a campaign to warn others about wearing headphones.

Keenan Matthes had been out running when he was struck in west Auckland. Now his family wants to prevent other deaths.

At six-foot-four and 100kg, their firstborn and only son was their gentle giant.  

His mum, Karamea Matthes, heard about the accident on Facebook. After failing to reach her son on his phone she ran down to the train tracks, where her fears were confirmed.

"I just screamed. I screamed and screamed and was telling them no," says Karamea Matthes. "It was the worst pain ever."

"It was the worst thing for any parent to find out," adds Keenan's dad, Presley Matthes.

Sixteen and rugby mad, he'd been out on an early morning run on April 20. He'd been wearing headphones and hadn't seen the train coming.

"We weren't aware of the dangers of headphones before, because they were a normal part of his life. But now we know the dangers," says Mrs Matthes.

It's been just two months and the emotions are still raw, but they're speaking out in support of the One Ear Out campaign in the hope it will save lives.

The campaign warns people to keep one ear out while walking, cycling and driving, and encourages people to take a pledge.

"Not only the young people but the adults as well, just to know that when you're running, when you're around the traffic, just to be aware and take one out so you can actually listen and know where you are," says Mr Matthes.

At least 82 people have been killed on New Zealand's tracks in the past five years, with many more injured, and there have been a worrying number of near misses.

Chair of TrackSAFE Bob Herbert says incidents involving pedestrians are increasing and headphones have been identified as a contributing factor.

"Trains are becoming more silent, they take a long time to stop, and unfortunately people with headphones are distracted and it's very easy to not be concentrating," says Mr Herbert.

The Matthes family say it cost their son his life.

"Everything's changed, our whole world has changed and we don't want that for anyone else," says Mrs Matthes.

They hope by sharing Keenan's story, they'll save others from similar heartache.