26 Oct 2018

Ngāruawāhia community sets up patrol to try to keep children off bridge

10:23 am on 26 October 2018

Children will keep jumping from Ngāruawāhia's rail bridge despite community efforts to prevent another death, a ward councillor says.

The danger signs at the rail bridge at Ngaruawahia.

Signs at the rail bridge at Ngāruawāhia Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

An inquest was held yesterday in Hamilton into the death of 11-year-old Moareen Rameka who was hit by a train on the bridge in March.

She was the second child to die while playing on the bridge, after Jayden Nerihana Tepu, 9, was hit by a train in 2002.

Coroner Gordon Matenga asked KiwiRail to investigate whether trains could slow to 50 km/h on the bridge in a bid to prevent deaths in the future.

Councillor Janet Gibb said the council and the community had been looking at more ways to keep young people off the bridge.

"It's a bit scary, we've had some hot days already and I have seen some children jumping into the river."

Ms Gibb said a community patrol had been started around the river and the rail bridge.

Those people did not have enforcement powers but had community influence and knew which families children came from.

This year the town's swimming pool would also be opened earlier than usual, and the beach around the river would be improved so there was more for children to do, taking the emphasis off the rail bridge.

Prior to Moareen's death there had been education programmes about the dangers of the bridge, and for the past three years had run a Safe Kids day near the bridge.

There were other solutions like building a diving platform but that came with health and safety risks, Ms Gibb said.

Ms Gibb said the entire community was devastated when Moareen was killed, and everyone wanted to figure out a way to stop it happening again, but it was likely children would continue to jump off the bridge.

Peer pressure and bravado were involved, she said, and leaping into the river was a rite of passage that had been in place for generations.

A memorial would be placed near the bridge as a reminder of the two lives lost, she said.

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