A MAN is dead following a crash between a train and ute at Otamarakau this morning.
Kawerau police Al Fenwick said the incident occurred at 8.35am at the Sandspit Campground.
Mr Fenwick said according to the train driver, the vehicle appeared to be slowing down to stop for the tracks.
But instead, "it drove slowly in front of him and onto the tracks", when the train struck the vehicle on the driver's side.
Mr Fenwick said the vehicle was wrapped around the front of the train for more than 500-metres before it came to a stop.
"The man was badly injured and died before emergency services could free him."
First at the scene was camp caretaker Colin Campbell who heard the collision, the vehicle dragging on the railway tracks and stones flying.
"I was cleaning out the deep freezer in the bus when I heard the horn on the train."
Mr Campbell said the horn sounding was not uncommon as trains had to sound their horn to warn cars at that crossing.
He went out to observe and saw how close the train was to the vehicle on the track and heard a longer hoot of the horn.
Mr Campbell watched the vehicle, wrapped around the front of the train, be pushed by the train carrying 11,000 tonnes of material.
"I quickly ran to the vehicle when it came to a stop and asked the man if he was ok."
The man was in a "pretty bad state", pinned in the vehicle and was unresponsive.
Mr Campbell said the man was breathing short and shallow breaths and another man at the scene dialled emergency services.
"I don't know if he heard me but I told him emergency services were on their way."
Mr Campbell said he retrieved jackets from the rear of the vehicle, rolled them up and put them under his head for comfort.
At that stage, the train driver had exited the train with a first aid kit.
"I told him he's going to need more than that. He needed the jaws of life to be freed."
The train driver was shaken up by the incident.
KiwiRail said in a statement that the freight train was travelling from Kawerau to Mt Maunganui at the time.
"The locomotive driver is understandably distressed but physically uninjured," the spokesperson said.
KiwiRail has shut down the train line that runs along the coastline from the eastern to western Bay of Plenty and into the Port of Tauranga.