10 June 2021

Plea for parliamentary petition signatures on level-crossing safety as deadline looms

| Edwina Mason
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Wreckage from accident between train and B-double trucking vehicle

The scene of a collision between a freight train and B-double trucking vehicle on Eurabba Road, near Bribbaree, in February 2021, which led to the deaths of two local men. Photo: NSW Police.

While a report is being prepared for a coronial inquest into the deaths of two men at a railway crossing near Bribbaree in February 2021, the fiance of one of those killed is appealing to all NSW residents to support a petition for NSW Parliament.

At around 5:00 pm on 23 February, Ethan Hunter, 27, and Mark Fenton, 50, were killed instantly when their B-double truck was struck by a train at a level crossing near Bribbaree, southwest of Cowra.

Ethan was due to be married at Easter 2021, and his fiance, Maddie Bott, is fighting to ensure no-one else experiences her loss.

The accident followed another similar incident, also near Bribbaree, just 12 months earlier when a truck collided with a train on Mary Gilmour Way, northwest of the small village at around 7:00 am on 18 February, 2020.

In that instance the truck driver escaped with his life and was subsequently issued an $464 fine and the loss of three demerit points for failure to stop at a stop sign.

Ethan Hunter and Maddie Bott

Ethan Hunter and Maddie Bott were due to marry this year. Photo: Supplied.

These incidents, plus several others at railway level crossings locally, regionally and around Australia led Maddie to the office of NSW Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke, who was struck by her resolve and encouraged Maddie to launch a parliamentary ePetition which could effectively lead to action on rail safety.

“I am in awe of Maddie Bott,” says Steph. “To turn such a personal tragedy into action is truly remarkable.

“Maddie has kindly given up her time to join me for meetings with the Deputy Premier [John Barilaro] and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads [Paul Toole] and I am confident we can make real change on this issue.

“This is just the beginning of this campaign. If we can get to 20,000 signatures it will trigger a debate in the House [NSW Parliament] which could lead to progress when it comes to rail safety.

READ ALSO Tragic death of fiance inspires Maddie to campaign for level crossing safety

“We owe it to her and all those who have lost loved ones in rail crossing accidents to fight for improved safety. It is one of the honours of my career to work with her on this issue.”

Maddie is urging all NSW residents to sign the petition.

“We need people to put their name to this petition,” she says. “It’s just so important to our rural and regional communities.

“Everyone in NSW has a reason to sign, whether they live near a level crossing, will ever use one, has a loved one who is in our emergency services, or is a first responder themselves, we all have a role to play in protecting people.

Maddie Bott and Steph Cooke standing at level-crossing

Maddie Bott (left) with Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke (right). Both have met with state and federal ministers to discuss level-crossing safety issues. Photo: Supplied.

“Now is the time to put your name to this and to start having important conversations about rail safety, particularly with the Inland Rail project underway.

“I just want to thank everyone who has signed this petition and shared it with their friends and family. It is reaching across the state, which is great.”

Currently, the ePetition has more than 11,500 signatures.

The ePetition closes on 5 July, 2021, and can be signed here.

FOOTNOTE: The last state government response to railway level crossing safety dates back to August 2009 when then NSW Minister for Transport David Campbell outlined six recommendations from the Level Crossing Strategy Council.

This interagency forum promotes collaboration between agencies to improve level crossing safety and develops and oversees the implementation of the Level Crossing Improvement Program across NSW, detailed in publicly available annual reports.

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