Crash driver ‘overtook recklessly’

2013-05-29 00:00

SURVIVORS of a taxi accident that claimed 15 lives say the taxi was speeding and the driver was overtaking vehicles by driving in the oncoming lane ahead of the crash.

Mduduzi Mbeje (23) broke both legs and right arm, and also suffered a fractured pelvis and damage to his liver as a result of the crash on September 30, 2011.

UKZN commerce student Dumisani Hadebe (24) was cut on the face and lost three teeth in the accident.

He told acting judge Piet Bezuidenhout that although he has recovered physically from his injuries, he still bears the emotional scars caused by the accident.

Joseph Phakathi (36), who was travelling to town with his friend, Simo Malinga, when the taxi collided with a truck near Copesville, said he suffered injuries to his chest and right arm, and coughed up blood in the wake of the accident.

Malinga (27) suffered head injuries and a broken jaw.

All four survivors said that although they did not know the actual speed at which the taxi had travelled along the Old Greytown Road, they believed it was speeding as it constantly overtook other vehicles on the road.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Mohamed Motala, they all denied hearing the driver, Khululeka Gwala (23), say that the taxi’s brakes had failed.

The four survivors gave evidence yesterday at the trial of Gwala, of New Hanover, who has pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of murder and four of attempted murder, and alleges that the accident was caused by faulty brakes.

Hadebe testified that he had previously boarded Gwala’s taxi to town.

He said Gwala seemed to be driving “recklessly” when they got to Old Greytown Road.

“He was overtaking cars a lot and he was speeding a bit,” he said.

“When he got to Copesville, near where the accident happened, he overtook on a double barrier line, which he should not have done as he could not see the oncoming traffic. That was when the accident happened,” he said.

Hadebe told the court Gwala had been travelling in the oncoming lane to overtake the queue of traffic backed up from the Allandale Road intersection when he saw the truck approach from the front and the vehicles collided.

“I woke up in hospital. I don’t know if it was the same day or the next day,” he said.

Policeman Shamalan Moodley, who was in the line of traffic at the intersection and witnessed the accident, testified it was something that would stay with him for the rest of his life.

He used his state vehicle to stop traffic and rushed to the wreckage to help the occupants. He’d heard “soft cries” coming from inside.

Moodley and another man had pulled the driver and some of the injured people from the taxi before paramedics arrived. “After that we kept pulling out bodies one by one,” he said. The case is proceeding.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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