Witness describes sickening 'crunch' as train crashed into car, killing two in Bay of Plenty

A witness of this morning's fatal crash that left two dead in the Bay of Plenty has described the ordeal, and the horrifying sound of a car and train colliding in Pongakawa.

Emergency services were called to the scene at 8.15am and three fire appliances were sent, Fire and Emergency New Zealand told 1 NEWS.

Shanelle Whitaker, who lives near the intersection where the accident occurred, told 1 NEWS what unfolded.

"I was just opening the curtains, and I just heard the crunch," Ms Whitaker said.

"I looked up and saw the car flying. [It was] shunted off the track and bowled down the train signpost, and then the yellow vest came flying out of the car.

"I thought it was a person."

Despite the potential for similar accidents at the intersection, Ms Whitaker says that today's tragedy doesn't make it dangerous for locals.

"I find it pretty safe. it's all what people make of it," she said.

"We've seen a lot of people go over while the bells are going, people just doing silly mistakes. People try and beat the train."

In a statement to 1 NEWS today, NZ Transport Agency addressed the crash.

"Our thoughts are with those involved in this tragic accident and their families," an agency spokesperson said in a statement. "We know the community is calling for improvements to this crossing and we will work with them to make this happen.

"The NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail are working together to deliver a $26 million programme of level crossing safety upgrades across our state highways to prevent deaths and serious injuries at level crossings.

"This work is part of the Government's Safe Networks programme - a collaborative, prioritised programme of proven safety interventions on high risk routes across New Zealand. It uses the safe system approach focusing on safe roads and roadsides, safe and appropriate speeds and safe level crossings."

Two other people involved in the incident were taken to Tauranga Hospital in critical and serious conditions.

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Shanelle Whitaker lives nearby the scene of this morning's tragedy. Source: 1 NEWS