SA Roadlink sued for R1,2 mln

2009-10-29 00:00

A PASSENGER on an SA Roadlink bus that crashed into the pillar of a bridge near Liberty Midlands Mall on December 24, 2006, killing 12 passengers, told a high court judge in a civil trial here yesterday that she heard the bus driver say on the scene that it happened “because he was too tired and never had time to sleep”.

This is disputed on behalf of SA Roadlink in the trial.

Bus driver Charles Vaudin (37) was acquitted by a regional court magistrate earlier this year of culpable homicide, but one of the injured passengers has now lodged a R1,2-million civil claim for damages.

The legal tests applicable to civil claims and criminal charges differ.

Acting Judge Adrian Rall is to first decide whether SA Roadlink Passenger Services is in fact liable to pay damages to Wellington Manana of Orlando East in Gauteng, before the court decides the amount (or quantum) to which he would be entitled.

Manana, who suffered a traumatic head injury as well as other injuries, is claiming a total of R1 215 480.

It is alleged in court papers that the collision was caused by the bus driver’s negligence. More specifically it is alleged that the driver failed to keep a proper lookout; that he travelled at an excessive speed in the prevailing circumstances; that he failed to apply brakes when by doing so he could have avoided a collision; that he failed to exercise reasonable care and skill; failed to keep the bus under control and take evasive action and that he drove while fatigued, did not concentrate and/or fell asleep.

Manana’s injuries included a brain injury, a severe chest injury, fractures of the tibia and fibula as well as the third and fourth ribs and a collapsed upper lobe of the lung.

His wife, Marina, told the court her husband was hospitalised for two months and is he is no longer “able to function as before”.

She explained that since the crash her previously outgoing husband has become short-tempered, has no time for friends and easily forgets things.

She said they never spoke about the accident except that he kept asking her exactly what happened. Her husband was asleep when the crash happened, she said.

Marina maintained that the bus was travelling at “high speed” at a stage before the accident, but said after someone on the bus spoke to the driver he drove normally. “It became very quiet after that and we had no more complaints,” she said.

This evidence is disputed.

Manana also denied having heard a “popping sound” or a sound like a tyre bursting at the rear of the bus shortly before the collision.

The court has heard that the bus left Johannesburg en route to Durban at about 8.45 pm. It stopped on the way to refuel and some time after leaving the garage, made a u-turn. The bus thereafter resumed its journey. Manana said they were not told the reason for turning back.

Another passenger, Slondile Sishi, alleged that before the crash the bus was going at “a very high speed”.

She testified that while waiting at the accident scene for her brothers to fetch her, she heard the bus driver being asked what caused the accident.

“He responded it was because he was tired and never had time to sleep,” she said. The driver never mentioned “a noise-like air bellow or a tyre bursting”, she said.

The case is proceeding.

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