Rail authorities were alerted to the fatal consequences of a train and truck crash in SA’s north when a member of the public answered one of the dead drivers’ phones, a report has found.

Train drivers Mick Warren and Kevin Baker were killed when a truck and a 1.7-kilometre-long Pacific National freight train collided at a level crossing on the Barrier Highway near South Australia’s border with New South Wales on December 31.

Truck driver Kevin Maxwell Pearson, from Hull Heads in Queensland, was later charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

A member of the public answered one of the deceased drivers’ personal phones.(ABC News: Bill Ormonde)

A preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found that in the aftermath of the crash, Pacific National urgently tried to contact the train crew.

“At about 11:24am, a member of the public answered one of the train drivers’ personal phones and confirmed to Pacific National that both drivers were fatally injured,” the ATSB report said.

“Pacific National passed this information on to ARTC [Australian Rail Track Corporation] at about 11:30am, approximately the same time that the emergency services, dispatched from Broken Hill, arrived at the scene.”

The report said the truck passed flashing level crossing warning lights and bells before the Pacific National freight train — travelling at a speed of 84 kilometres per hour — crashed into the truck’s second trailer.

Recorded information from the locomotive found that the train’s headlight, horn and emergency brake were activated before impact about 10:15am, the ATSB report said.

Mick Warren and Kevin Baker were killed when a truck and freight train collided on the Barrier Highway.(Facebook)

“The second trailer of the truck, both locomotives and several wagons were destroyed in the collision as well as substantial damage to the track and signal infrastructure, and active level crossing traffic controls,” it said.

ATSB investigators found that the rail infrastructure manager ARTC received calls from emergency services about 15 minutes after the collision.

“The ARTC network control officer was unaware of a derailment or collision and commenced calling the crew,” the report said. 

Network control officers attempted to make contact with the train crew via radio before reaching out to Pacific National, who began trying to contact the crew directly through their personal mobile phones.

The report revealed Mr Warren and Mr Barker had started their shift at Broken Hill about an hour before the crash happened near Yunta.

The train consisted of two locomotives with 27 loaded multi-platform wagons.(ABC News)

The train, which was travelling from Sydney to Perth, consisted of two locomotives with 27 loaded multi-platform wagons weighing more than 3,800 tonnes.

The ATSB said the truck was loaded with avocadoes and was being driven by an experienced driver who was familiar with the route. 

Following the crash, Port Augusta Mayor Linley Shine said Mr Warren and Mr Baker were “highly skilled” professionals and active members of local community groups.

The Adelaide Magistrates Court previously heard Mr Pearson had been working as a truck driver for more than 50 years prior to the collision.

Debris from the 1.7-kilometre train was strewn across the area around the intersection.(ABC News: Bill Ormonde)

Mr Pearson is on bail and will appear in the Port Augusta Magistrates Court in November. 

The ATSB said investigations are continuing and a final report will be released at their conclusion.