Parents mourn nine kids

2010-08-26 00:00

CAPE TOWN — “I love you. And be nice to the taxi driver.”

These were the last words Rochelle Smith of Eerste River said to her son, Reece, yesterday morning.

Minutes later he was one of nine pupils from the Eerste River area who died at 7.10 am when the minibus taxi they were travelling in crashed into a train.

Apparently the taxi driver raced on the wrong side of the road past a string of cars that had already stopped at the train crossing between the Blackheath and Meltonrose stations.

The booms at the train crossing in Buttskop Street, Blackheath, had already been lowered to prevent motorists from driving on to the tracks. The train was already close.

Police spokesperson Colonel Billy Jones said the driver stayed on the wrong side of the road in an attempt to speed over the train tracks.

“The train hit the taxi on the left side and nine pupils died at the scene,” said Jones.

The taxi, which was carrying 14 pupils and the driver, was crumpled on all sides.

Four injured pupils were admitted to Tygerberg hospital and one to the Red Cross children’s hospital.

The driver is in a critical condition. The police declined to say to which hospital he was admitted.

This is not the first time that lives have been lost at this railway crossing.

An area the size of a rugby field was cordoned off while police fine-combed the scene.

Hundreds of people gathered around the area.

Several people said it wasn’t the first time that such a gruesome accident had happened there.

“The drivers don’t drive carefully and when you ask them to slow down they swear and scream at you,” said Chantel Joshua.

The Railway Safety Regulator said all safety measures — including a boom, warning signs and flashing lights — were in place and working at the crossing.

It said its investigators were at the scene.

Hundreds of train passengers were taken by bus to nearby bus-stops to continue their journeys, while the train staff, including the driver, were treated for shock.

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