Tributes for Kerang crash victims 10 years on

The 11 lives cut short in one of Victoria’s worst rail crashes have been remembered in a memorial service marking 10 years since the tragedy.

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Family, friends and dignitaries including Premier Daniel Andrews have gathered in Kerang, the country town where seven adults and four children were killed when a semi-trailer smashed into a Swan Hill-to-Melbourne V-Line on June 5, 2007.

Another eight people were seriously injured.

Candles were lit and prayers said at Monday’s sombre service.

Julie McMonnies paid tribute to her husband Geoff, who died in the accident.

“We’d been married 26 years, he was my childhood sweethear, my best friend, devoted and loving husband,” she said.

Her daughter Rose also killed in the crash.

Emergency service workers inspect the truck at the point where it hit a V-Line train at a level crossing near Kerang, northern Victoria. (AAP)AAP

“[She was] acting in the school play, crazy in love for the first time and dreaming big dreams about the future,” Mrs McMonnies said.

A decade on, but the pain is still fresh.

Harold Long, 83, was flown to Melbourne after the accident, but died on the way hospital.

His granddaughter Vanessa Reid haunted by the tragedy.

“I’ve struggled every day since that day,” she said.

Mr Long was pinned under luggage in the train carriage and had to have his leg partially amputated to be freed.

He died on the way to hospital in Melbourne.

“I went into severe denial when he passed. I just shut myself away, I didn’t want to believe it,” Ms Reid said.

“I still can’t believe it. Every time I see a level crossing I close my eyes because I’m scared it’s going to happen again.”

Safety at level crossings has improved since the crash, but Ms Reid said people still tried to beat trains.

“They must stop, because there’s a lot of people on those trains and there’s a lot of people that can get hurt,” she said.

Truck driver Christian Scholl was charged with 11 counts of culpable driving over the deaths but acquitted by a Supreme Court jury in 2009.

A coronial inquest made 25 recommendations, including calling for improved signage and warnings for drivers approaching level crossings, and better co-ordination between emergency authorities.

But questions over rail safety continue to be raised.

“When it comes to level crossing safety we are continually doing everything we can to raise the bar, as it were,” V-Line Chief Executive James Pinder said.

But he, like the families, was adamant the day’s focus should not be lost.

“We are here, like everybody, to support the families and the loves ones of those involved,” Mr Pinder said.

– with AAP

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