KZN mourns crash victims

2008-03-03 00:00

THIRTY-ONE people were killed on KwaZulu-Natal roads yesterday, prompting Premier S’bu Ndebele to declare this Thursday a “Day of Mourning”.

The grim toll began when 12 people died in an accident near the Shongweni off-ramp on the N3, then three people were killed near Mtubatuba. Just hours later, 15 people died near Dundee. Three of the dead were children.

A seven-year-old was also killed in a fourth accident when he was hit by a car in the Hlabisa district.

“For KwaZulu-Natal, this is a dark day. This is a day of mourning for all those who were killed, senselessly, in a space of two hours,” said Ndebele.

The premier has requested employers to release people to attend prayers on Thursday at a venue still to be announced, and asked that churches conducting their normal prayer day on Thursday to have it together with the Day of Mourning prayers.

Initially 25 people were reported to have died in three accidents, but the toll rose as the day progressed.

In the first accident which happened at 7.15 am at the Shongweni off-ramp, it is alleged that the driver of a bakkie in the northbound lane lost control of the vehicle. He crossed the median into oncoming traffic and the bakkie collided with two vehicles, including a Citi Golf. The third car hit the VW.

The bakkie landed in a ditch and eight of occupants died instantly. The driver and a passenger in the Golf were also killed on impact. Four people were injured and were taken to R.K. Khan Hospital, where two died later.

In the Dundee accident, 12 people were trapped dead inside a minibus taxi after a head-on collision with a truck carrying coal. The taxi was travelling on the P272 Nyanyadu road between Dundee and Osizweni.

According to a KZN Transport spokesman, the coal truck driver tried to avoid a vehicle that was overtaking the minibus, but crashed into the minibus. Five passengers were critically injured in the accident.

Emergency personnel had to use jaws of life to retrieve the bodies. A four-year-old child was among the dead.

In Mtubatuba, a 10-year-old primary school pupil and two teachers were killed when their vehicle overturned.

KZN Transport spokeswoman, Nonkululeko Mbatha said six teachers at Mtikini Primary in Ngwavuma and the pupil were travelling in a Ford Ikon when the driver lost control and the car overturned.

Three injured teachers were taken to Ngwelezane Hospital at Empangeni.

Ndebele and Transport MEC Bheki Cele visited the accident scene in Shongweni. In a media statement he said the accidents could have been avoided.

“My condolences go to the families and relatives of the deceased, and also to Mtikini Primary School in Ingwavuma, who lost their teachers in the accident.

“Road accidents are caused by four factors; mechanical faults of vehicles, driver error, weather conditions, and the engineering of the road. But these accidents appear to have been caused by human error. This means that they could have been avoided.”

He urged drivers and pedestrians to be more vigilant and considerate on the road.

Cele also appealed to motorists to observe the law.

“We will continue to enforce the law on our roads, however, the public as well as the motorists should also make some progress in ensuring that the law is adhered to at all times,” said Cele.

Yesterday’s accidents happened the day after eight people were buried in Jolivet following a major accident early last week.

In another accident later in the day, 29 people were injured when a minibus and a bus collided near Camperdown. RTI spokesman Rajen Chinaboo said the driver of the taxi had an epileptic fit while driving and the taxi crossed the median into the southbound lane where it collided with a bus. The minibus driver suffered critical injuries, two other passengers were seriously injured, and 18 suffered bruises.

Meanwhile, 10 people died in a head-on collision between a taxi and a bakkie on the N2 near Mount Frere yesterday, Eastern Cape police said.

Seven of the dead were employees of a Mount Ayliff supermarket returning from a soccer tournament.

Five other employees are still in critical condition, and the shop had to call in staff from other branches in order to open yesterday.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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