Expert’s report on truck show May not solely to blame, says group

2014-04-03 00:00

THE Sanele May Support Group says that the truck driver should not be held solely responsible for the Field’s Hill accident that killed 24 people last year.

The group’s lawyers submitted a forensic report in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court yesterday that contradicts the position of Sagekal Logistics, May’s employers — that the truck was roadworthy at the time.

After the submission was made to magistrate Siyabonga Mkhize and prosecutor Vikesh Sewnath, the matter was transferred to the Durban high court and May remained in custody.

Later, May’s support group held a press conference at a Pinetown hotel, where Gauteng engine, gearbox, differential and compressor diagnostic expert Thomas Rootman presented the report of his investigation into the truck’s wreckage.

Rootman says he conducted the investigation for Sagekal Logistics last year.

“Sagekal Logistics attorney Theasen Pillay approached me in September 2013 to conduct the investigation. He specifically instructed me to report on the roadworthiness of the truck. This was meant to take two days, but after day one, I had seen enough to conclude that the truck’s braking system was appalling. When I reported back, Pillay said he was disappointed with my poor services. I have not been paid since,” he said.

Rootman’s report reveals a number of faults in the brake shoe linings of both the horse and its trailer, which had existed before the accident.

The left and right brake shoe linings of the horse were severely worn onto the securing rivets and the linings had started to break up in places.

Severe dust build-up on these sections was evidence that the lining material had been destroyed long before the accident.

Asked if May had, according to his investigation, engaged a lower gear, Rootman said the driver had not selected a low gear at a high speed.

“The truck was in neutral when I inspected it,” he said.

This contradicts the report of collision reconstruction expert Stan Bezuidenhout who said he found the truck in the fifth gear when he inspected it.

Bezuidenhout had said there was no evidence suggesting the brake system was compromised prior to the accident, as new brake linings were fitted to the vehicle and it was tested before May left for Johannesburg.

However, Rootman’s report indicates that the trailer’s braking system was also not in a good condition. He said the brake linings of the right wheel on the front axle were worn out, while the linings on the left wheel were severely worn. Most of the lining material had come off from the brake shoe.

He made similar findings on the trailer’s middle and rear axles.

“Due to the condition of the brake systems, the driver would not have been able to sufficiently slow down the combination vehicle for the purpose of selecting a lower, appropriate gear for driving down a steep descent.

“It would be impossible for any driver to have executed proper or any control over the vehicle speed for the purpose of selecting a lower gear or to stop the vehicle,” he said.

Sagekal attorney Theasen Pillay said Rootman’s services had been terminated a day after they were engaged.

“A dispute immediately arose as to his fees, as he had failed to provide the scope of services specifically agreed upon.

“His report was received after the investigation had been conducted by our current expert. It is our view that Mr Rootman’s actions, in approaching Sanele May’s attorneys with his ‘report’, is a malicious and condemnable act, which may attract serious sanctions for him,” he said.

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