Horror smash at mall

2012-01-24 00:00

DEATH and mayhem erupted at the Midlands Liberty Mall last night when a speeding truck careered off the highway, smashed through the fence, ploughed over five vehicles and crashed through the wall near the food court entrance.

At the time of going to press, at least one person had been crushed to death, two seriously injured and four others slightly injured. Police were still searching the wreckage for more bodies. It is believed the woman who died was approximately 70 years old and had been walking in the car park when the truck rammed through the fence and across the parking lot tarmac.

She was from a prominent Pietermaritzburg family, whose shocked members gathered at the scene.

A woman, who declined to reveal her name to The Witness, said she had followed the truck from Howick. She said the truck had driven erratically, overtaking, zig-zagging all over the road and driving in the yellow lane before it left the N3 at the Chatterton Road circle and ploughed through the fence, cutting a path of destruction across the car park. The white truck, carrying a load of ironing boards, ended up wedged in the wall of Absa Bank,

The driver and co-driver were removed from the wedged truck, with broken bones.

A shaken teenager, who asked not to be named, said he was waiting outside the entrance to be picked up.

He described how he saw the truck careering off the freeway.

“It was going so fast it was almost like the driver’s foot was stuck on the accelerator.”

The teen said he saw how the truck crushed everything in its path, including vehicles and pedestrians.

The still-shaken young man said he just jumped and ran away.

Chaotic scenes played out in the mall’s parking lot late last night, with police, the fire brigade and tow truck operators descending on the area.

Police crime scene tape cordoned off the area of devastation and near the wedged truck was the mangled body of the victim covered by silver foil.

Police said they would probably leave the wreckage as it was and return to the scene at 5 am this morning to continue their investigations. There were fears that if they removed the truck last night, the wall of Absa could collapse.

A heavy downpour hampered police efforts to comb through the wreckage.

A trail of debris marked the path of the truck through the mall’s car park, with trees and pieces of fence littering the tarmac.

Another traumatised eye-witness, Bhekisisa Kunene, said he was on his way to fetch workers at the mall when the truck roared past him at the traffic circle.

“It never stopped. It just missed my car. It was flying. People screamed as the truck went through the car park, and many ran inside the mall because they could see what was coming. I’m not right in my head now. I called my family.”

A visibly shaken Cassy Fourie, the mall’s manager, described the scene as a “terrible incident”. “There are people critically injured. The emergency services are doing everything they can to help.”

Bystanders watched, mostly silent, as police and paramedics did their work, blue and red lights flickering.

 

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