Roadlink driver testifies

2009-04-20 00:00

The driver of a SA Roadlink bus, Charles Vaudin (37), testified in the regional court here yesterday that he was satisfied he had done everything he could to prevent the accident near Liberty Midlands Mall on December 24, 2006, in which 12 passengers were killed.

Vaudin gave evidence in his defence when the case resumed yesterday after a lengthy adjournment during which the state attempted to locate a motorist alleged to have been travelling behind the bus just before the accident happened.

State advocate Sandesh Sankar said the prosecution has failed to trace the alleged witness and closed the State’s case.

Vaudin — who faces culpable homicide charges — denied that he was fatigued at the time of the crash, but during his testimony admitted that he had in fact not adhered to the company policy to work only one shift every 24 hours, as it was short of drivers over the festive season.

He said he had left Durban the day before the accident at 2 pm and driven to Johannesburg, arriving at 10 pm.

After refuelling the bus, he left Johannesburg soon after 11 pm that night, but a co-driver drove it to Balmoral and he had slept for at least two-and-a-half hours,before taking over the driving again.

On reaching the Tugela toll stop he realised he did not have the toll card he required and had to return to Balmoral to fetch it. This added about two hours to that night’s journey.

Vaudin agreed that the bus was carrying 84 people at the time of the accident even though it was certified to carry 66 passengers.

A mechanical engineering expert called by the defence to give forensic evidence, Conrad Lotter, testified that the over-loading would not have influenced the accident.

He said that after examining reports and physical evidence relating to the accident, he believed that “circumstances conspired” against Vaudin. He said Vaudin had reacted as he should have, but could not have avoided the crash.

Vaudin told the court he’d had five years experience driving heavy trucks and two years as a coach driver when the accident happened.

He said he was not speeding. As he entered a bend on the N3 approaching the Liberty Midlands Mall he heard a “bang” at the rear of the coach.

“Thereafter there was a sudden movement and the bus pulled to the right side. I reduced speed and tried to correct the bus without harsh braking, then accelerated again to maintain traction. It didn’t help.”

Vaudin said he felt that he was regaining control of the bus and would have been able to get it back onto the road had the bridge over the N3 been further away. However, in the circumstances he could not have avoided the accident.

Vaudin said he had thought that the accident may have been caused by an air bellow bursting. Months after the accident, he’d been told that evidence showed that a rear tyre had burst.

The case has been postponed until July 20. The court will consider the arguments before delivering judgment.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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