Central Queensland train crash that claimed life of Chris O'Brien detailed in ATSB report

© Provided by ABC NEWS The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating. (Supplied: RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service)

Investigators have revealed that a fatal central Queensland train crash happened when a train being used for a training exercise travelled through a stop signal and collided with a parked coal train.

The preliminary report, published by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, details the final seconds leading up to the crash on June 18, 2021, including an emergency call from the network conductor operator when the train passed a red signal.

The ATSB report shows a Queensland Rail train without any carriages was travelling between Rockhampton and Bluff during a “route tuition exercise”.

The exercises are conducted to allow drivers to learn the signalling, speed and dynamics of certain sections of track.

It was travelling “long end leading”, meaning the driving cabin was at the rear.

Three people – a driver, a co-driver and a tutor – were on board.

Near Westwood, about 50km west of Rockhampton, a section of track was closed for maintenance, forcing all traffic to use a single line.

The Queensland Rail train was directed to stop at a red signal to allow an Aurizon Coal train consisting of three locomotives and 102 empty carriages to pass that section of track.

The critical moment

At 11:25am an alarm was generated in the network control centre that indicated the Queensland Rail train had passed through the red signal and entered a 50-kilometre-per-hour section of track at 72kph.

Six seconds later the network controller made an emergency broadcast about the alarm, but there was no response from crew.

Four seconds later the train began to brake. It was travelling at 60kph.

Six seconds after that the train collided with the Aurizon coal train at 44kph.

The impact of the crash left the last nine carriages of the coal train damaged and claimed the life of Chris O’Brien, aged in his 40s, who was driving the Queensland Rail train.

The co-driver sustained serious injuries and the tutor driver sustained minor injuries.

Mr O’Brien has been remember as “an amazing husband” and father.

In a post online his family said: “Our everything is gone”.

The ATSB report said the preliminary report was prepared to provide information to the industry and the public, but contained “no analysis or findings”.

A final report into the incident is due next year.

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