Bus driver dies, dozens injured after school bus and train collision in Manawatu

The bus driver involved in a collision between a school bus and train in Manawatu has died.

Dozens of children were injured during the incident north of Palmerston North on Wednesday morning.

The crash occurred at the intersection of Railway Rd and Cleverly Line in Bunnythorpe around 8:05am and ejected the bus driver out the front of the bus window.

The police said female bus driver's injuries were unsurvivable and she died at the scene.

St John said they assessed 40 patients whose conditions vary from moderate to minor. Of them, six patients were transferred to Palmerston North Hospital. 

No children were seriously injured, and 41 people were on the bus at the time of the crash.

Some of the students on the bus were from Feilding High School, principal Nathan Stewart said in a letter to parents seen by Newshub.

"The Palmerston North public bus carrying Feilding High School students has been involved in an accident this morning," he said.

"Please be assured that our students are being well cared for and we have senior managers at the scene."

He said none of their school's students were seriously injured and they are in the process of contacting the parents of the students on the bus.

A police spokesperson said parents that wish to collect their children are asked to make themselves known to an officer at the scene who will assist them.

The bus crashed in Bunnythorpe on Wednesday morning.
The bus crashed in Bunnythorpe on Wednesday morning. Photo credit: Chris Murray

A witness told Newshub the bus involved was a school bus carrying high school students and there were 30 to 40 children wrapped in blankets on the side of the road around 8:45am.

They said they had not seen the driver.

The front of the bus was hit in the incident and is covered in a large tarpaulin to hide it, the witness said.

Fire and Emergency said therewere three fire engines at the scene, and police said they had three vehicles in attendance.

A police spokesperson said diversions are in place at the intersection of Dixons line and Railway Road and were asking motorists to avoid the area.

The intersection at Railway Road and Cleverly Road.
The intersection at Railway Road and Cleverly Road. Photo credit: Google Maps

KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said he was "shocked and saddened to learn of this morning's collision".

He said the level crossing is protected by flashing lights and bells.

“KiwiRail staff are on site, working with emergency services and supporting the train driver who is physically unharmed but naturally shaken by the incident," he said.

“We will work closely with agencies in any investigation but for now the priority is allowing emergency services to do their job."

The train line is currently closed between Marton and Palmerston North and will remain closed until cleared by police.

Miller said KiwiRail will offer support to the schools involved and the bus company. 

"I send my thoughts, and those of all KiwiRail staff, to everyone involved in this incident."

The bus involved in the crash belongs to Uzabus. The company said they couldn't comment on the situation as it's a police matter.

MidCentral DHB's Lyn Horgan said after hearing about the crash their teams immediately ensured there was capacity in the emergency department and theatres to manage any incoming patients. 

"Seven patients were brought to Palmerston North Hospital’s Emergency Department and are currently being assessed and treated," she said on Wednesday afternoon.

"All patients are in a stable condition and two have been admitted to a ward for observation."

Horgan, who is the DHB's acute and elective specialist services operations executive, said they had also provided a space for loved ones to gather.

"We understand that events like this can be extremely distressing for whānau and friends so we also offered pastoral support for those who wanted it."