'Heartbroken': Kiwifruit community in shock after workers killed in car crash

The tight-knit kiwifruit community in Te Puke is in shock after two workers were killed at a Te Puke train crossing that locals say they've been complaining about for decades.

A car carrying kiwifruit workers hit a train at the intersection with Pongakawa School Road.

The group worked for Southern Cross Horticulture and CEO Andrew Dunstan said they were heartbroken by the tragic event. 

"We are working with police to understand exactly what happened but our number one priority is and will continue to be supporting our team and their families as we work through this together," he said.

Chanel Whitaker lives nearby and said she was opening the curtains when she heard the horn of the train and then crush.

Witness Chanel Whitaker who lives nearby.
Witness Chanel Whitaker who lives nearby. Photo credit: Newshub

"I saw the car flying off the track and a jersey flying out and the pole of the train lights went down," she said.

The train continued travelling for another 300 meters before its driver was able to bring it to a complete stop, and realise the seriousness of what had been left in its path or what had just happened. 

It's been confirmed the people in the car were all kiwifruit industry workers, and two died at the scene.

Local Helen Goddall believed a tragedy was inevitable, as she and her husband had been fighting for barrier arms there for decades.

"We see so many people, a lot of workers orchard workers try and beat the trains you see that all the time," she said.

The three survivors remain in hospital.