A DRIVER tried in vain to stop his freight train before it killed a man when it hit his car on an Oxfordshire level crossing.

The crash happened on the Sandy Lane level crossing between Yarnton and Kidlington just before 3.40pm when the freight train hit a blue Renault Kangoo containing two men.

It is thought the man who died was the passenger while another man, believed to be the driver, suffered minor injuries and was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Giles Woodforde, from Kidlington, was going for a walk in the area at the time the accident happened.

He heard the train blasting its horn after he crossed the nearby Roundham Crossing just before the accident.

Mr Woodforde, 68 of Mill Street, said: “A freight train going south gave a prolonged blast on its horn, presumably as a warning just prior to the accident.

“I was at the next level crossing north at the time, the pedestrian one, but I was out of sight of the Yarnton crossing. I had just gone across and a freight train came through. I thought this was an accident in the making or the train’s horn was stuck.

“Then the emergency sirens started coming in from all directions. I wasn’t surprised to hear about what had happened.”

A spokesman for the British Transport Police said: “It is believed two people were in the vehicle at the time.

“Sadly, one of them, a man, was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The train involved was a Trafford Park to Southampton freight service, and the train driver is reported to be shaken but uninjured. The driver pulled the emergency brake but was unable to stop in time.

“Officers are working to establish the full circumstances including how the car came to be on the tracks at the time. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has been informed.”

The crossing is fitted with barriers and warning lights.

Thames Valley Police and British Transport Police were called to the incident, reported at 3.40pm.

South Central Ambulance Service also attended. The air ambulance was sent to the scene but was not needed.

Kaye Brown, who works at nearby Yarnton Leisure Buildings, added: “We heard a lot of sirens in the area.

“It was non-stop.”

In December, British Transport Police discussed plans to deploy more level crossing safety equipment in Oxfordshire.

It said purpose-built camera vans will be used to monitor high-risk crossings.

Among level crossings expected to be visited as part of the plans were the Sandy Lane and Yarnton Lane crossings. It was last night unclear whether this had yet happened at the two sites.

Simon Letouze, of British Transport Police, added: “We are concentrating at this moment on the details of the incident. That will be something we look at at a later date.”

Steve Couchman, of Morton Avenue, Kidlington, was found dead on the railway tracks at Sandy Lane level crossing, between Kidlington and Yarnton, on Monday, February 7, 2011.

History enthusiast Mr Couchman helped to set up historical re-enactment society Fellowship of the Ox.

Back in July 2001, two youths in a suspected stolen car narrowly escaped death when they were hit by a train on the level crossing.