PASSERS-BY tried desperately to save an 85-year-old man who died after the car he was in was hit by a freight train on a level crossing.
Last night the death of Tom Pizzey was said to have robbed Oxfordshire of a kind, gentle and generous man.
Those are the words of his family after the pensioner was killed at the Sandy Lane level crossing near Yarnton.
British Transport Police last night thanked members of the public who tried in vain to save Mr Pizzey on Wednesday.
The 78-year-old driver of the car was left with relatively minor injuries after the crash and was last night still in hospital.
Mr Pizzey’s niece Linda Mogford said:“My Uncle Tom was a kind, generous and gentle man and this incident has come as a great shock to all the family.
“We would like to thank everyone for their kind messages of support at this very difficult and sad time and extend our sympathies to those who knew Tom in Banbury.
“He will be greatly missed by his family and those who loved him.”
The incident happened on the Sandy Lane line between Yarnton and Kidlington just before 3.40pm on Wednesday when a Freightliner train carrying shipping containers hit the blue Renault Kangoo.
Investigators were yesterday examining the wreckage of the car and the mechanics of the half barrier crossing but admitted they did not yet know what caused the crash.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Taylor said: “Detectives will be working tirelessly to establish the full circumstances into exactly what took place, including how the car came to be on the tracks.”
Network Rail insisted the crossing barrier was safe prior to the crash despite claims from residents that the barrier was frequently stuck down.
It also emerged that Kidlington police had assisted at the crossing several times in the last few months.
Yarnton resident Wayne Tilling, said problems at the crossing had begun in November.
Mr Tilling, 42, said: “There is definitely a safety issue there with the barriers staying down. “I’ve been using that crossing for years and the barriers are definitely down longer than they used to be.
“I live near there and have seen drivers flagging others down to tell them that the crossing was stuck, and police have been out.
“I have contacted the signalman myself four or five times having gone down there and found the barriers stuck.”
He added he had seen drivers try to manoeuvre around the barriers, which he said was because they were down too long.
But Network Rail spokeswoman Sam Kelly said the crossing was working correctly.
She added: “Currently, we have no plans to install full barriers at this crossing and reviewing safety at level crossings is an ongoing process.
“There have been three recorded incidents of misuse at the crossing and two near misses since April 2009.
“In comparison to other crossings this is very low.”
But the organisation refused to give the Oxford Mail comparative figures for other level crossings in the area.
Thames Valley Police spokesman Rhianne Pope said the Kidlington Neighbourhood Team had attended the crossing to assist “a handful” of times recently to help out but no further details were available.
A purpose-built speed camera van designed to catch drivers attempting to beat the warning barriers was due to be used at the crossing, but British Transport Police yesterday said it had not yet visited the site.
How the crossing works...
A LEVEL crossing barrier works when a train triggers a ‘treadle’ switch on its way to the crossing.
The switches are used to operate crossings, such as those at Sandy Lane near Yarnton, and give accurate detection of an oncoming train.
It is important the device is in full working order as, dependent on the speed of the train, sometimes there can be only 30 seconds between the train tagging it and then passing the crossing.
When the wheels of the train go over the treadle, it activates the level crossing and the barriers start to deploy. The treadle switch provides detection at a given point in the passage of a train, with passenger trains usually much faster than freight trains on approach. The waiting time for vehicles can therefore vary from about 30 seconds to upwards of three minutes dependent on how fast the train is going.
When it passes and hits the treadle on the other side of the track moving away, the barrier raises to let traffic through.