Truckers face murder rap after horror crash

2011-11-16 00:00

PRINCE ALBERT — Speed and recklessness were apparently the causes of an accident that claimed 20 lives — including two children — in the Karoo in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The accident happened at 1 am when two taxis collided one after the other with a stationary heavy truck on the N1.

The trailer-truck, with a load of waste paper, came to standstill while trying to turn into a filling station at Prince Albert Road after running out of fuel.

“The driver of my taxi phoned me at 11 pm from Graaff-Reinet,” Bonnie Bokwa of Bokwa Taxis said at the scene yesterday. “I don’t know if he survived.”

The timeframe means that the taxi, which left Alice in the Eastern Cape and picked up passengers at towns across the province, covered the 320 km from Graaff-Reinet to Prince Albert Road in just under two hours.

The accident happened in an 80 km/h zone, Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle said.

He told Sapa he wants to install average speed timing equipment on the N1 between Prince Albert Road and Laingsburg as soon as possible.

It was not immediately clear how many passengers were in each vehicle.

Bokwa said his taxi could accommodate 22 people.

The wreckage of Bokwa’s taxi still obstructed the highway at 12.30 pm while police forensic experts carried out investigations.

Chicken pieces and a chocolate bar, perhaps a last meal, lay alongside the bloodied seats and the roof had been peeled back to get the bodies out.

The rear seats of the other taxi, which had an Eastern Cape registration and belonged to J&R Transport, were miraculously not damaged, which allowed some people to survive. Altogether, 17 people survived.

“We can confirm that 20 people, including two children, were killed in the crash,” said Southern Cape police spokesperson Captain Malcolm Pojie. Both taxis were travelling from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town.

The two drivers of the truck were not injured.

They abandoned the vehicle when it ran out of fuel, obstructing two of the three lanes of the highway, and went to buy diesel.

Carlisle told Eye Witness News the driver decided to coast towards the filling station after running out of fuel.

“It was an act of serious recklessness and selfishness.”

He told Sapa he expects charges of murder or culpable homicide to be brought against the truck drivers.

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