Driver’s skill averts tragedy after bus rear-ends truck on hill

2012-11-14 00:00

AN alert truck driver had to call on his advanced driving skills yesterday to avert an accident and save the lives of 50 passengers on board a runaway bus on the N3 near the Peter Brown off-ramp on Town Hill.

The 38-year-old John Chipsupa was returning from Johannesburg at 5.30 am and driving down the infamous Town Hill descent when suddenly he heard a loud bang and felt his 14-wheeler lurch violently forward.

A quick look in his side mirrors confirmed his worst fears: a runaway SA Roadlink bus full of passengers had rammed into the back of his trailer. He had to think fast.

He said he suspected that the brakes on the bus had failed and its driver was in trouble. He slowed down using both his brakes and by changing down to a lower gear to reduce engine speed, using his truck as a shield to protect cars in front of him.

“The bus bumped me on the trailer and that is when I noticed that it had problems. I had to change down my gears to stop,” said Chipsupa, adding that he wanted to protect other drivers as well as the passengers on the bus.

He said he did not think about his own life at the time. He said if he hadn’t attended an advanced driving course back in Zimbabwe in 2000, he would not have known about using gears to effectively slow down a truck.

Had it not been for the training, Chipsupa would have applied brakes, a natural reaction by most motorists, and the impact of the bus crashing into him would have propelled his truck forward and mowed down cars in front of him.

The bus driver, Denzil Moonsamy, said the brakes failed and he had no choice but to crash into Chipsupa’s truck.

“I had to think fast as I would not go down the Town Hill slope with the bus without brakes. I tried to enter the arrester bed, but couldn’t. The [only] choice was to hit the truck, which helped us,” he said.

Moonsamy is thanking his lucky stars that of the two trucks in front of him, he crashed into Chipsupa’s. However, the humble Zimbabwean played down his heroic actions, saying that he was happy that he had saved lives.

His employers, Land Wide Trucks of Cato Ridge, have given him a day off from work to recover emotionally.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said the SA Roadlink bus had an “admin mark”, which meant that it had been ordered off the road.

“We found that there were no licence discs on the windscreen. It was operating without an operating card. The admin mark was not removed, which means it is not roadworthy and the driver confirmed that the brakes had failed when he was interviewed by traffic officers.”

SA Roadlink chief operations officer Joe Moshwane denied that the bus was not roadworthy and had been operating without a permit.

ER24 spokesperson Derrick Banks said Moonsamy and four passengers sustained minor cuts and abrasions when the bus hit Chipsupa’s truck.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said they were investigating a case of reckless and negligent driving.

• mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

Bad history: SA Roadlink accidents

n May 16, 2012, five people are killed when an SA Roadlink bus overturns on the N1.

n April 4, 2011, an SA Roadlink bus crashes into the Metro car dealership in Victoria Road, damaging about 20 cars.

n October 9, 2010, an SA Roadlink bus driver is killed and more than 50 people injured when the bus collides with a truck at Van Reenen’s pass.

n March 22, 2010, an SA Roadlink bus catches fire on the N3 between Pietermaritzburg and Mooi River. All passengers lose their luggage.

n December 14, 2009, Pietermaritzburg business manager Brian Govender is killed on the N3 near Midmar Dam when he is hit on the head by the bus’s luggage compartment door as he off­loads bags from a bus parked on the roadside. A passing truck hit the luggage door.

n December 16, 2008, 11 people die when an SA Roadlink bus hits a truck it is trying to overtake, veers into oncoming traffic and collides with a Toyota Camry, killing all six occupants of that vehicle.

n December 24, 2006, 12 people are killed when an SA Roadlink bus crashes into a bridge on the N3 outside Liberty Midlands Mall. A passenger, Nkosiyabo Shezi of Folweni township near Durban, later sues the company for R1 million in damages.

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