'Driver may have ignored boom'
Cape Town - Preliminary investigations into an accident that killed nine schoolchildren in Blackheath, just outside Cape Town on Wednesday morning indicate that the driver of the minibus they were travelling in tried to cross the train tracks while the boom was down, say police.
"A case of culpable homicide is being investigated," police spokesperson Billy Jones told News24.
Jones said the minibus was carrying 13 pupils from Kasselsvlei High School, Sarepta High School, Bellville South Primary School and Bellville Technical High School. Eight children were confirmed dead on the scene while the ninth died in hospital.
A student at Bellville Technical High School told News24 teachers at the school are sending pupils back home after at least two pupils from the school were killed in the accident.
The student, who did not want her name mentioned, said she was still trying to deal with the trauma.
"I don't know where my head is at the moment," she said.
She said one of the pupils killed was a 16-year-old first team hockey player in Grade 10 while the other was a girl in Grade 8.
The school confirmed that two of their pupils died in the accident.
'A lot of blood'
Witness Marvin Swaartbooi, who said he got to the scene just after the accident happened, told News24 it was clear the taxi driver had tried to jump the tracks while the boom was down.
He said the train had smashed into the back of the taxi, throwing the children out.
"The children who had been at the back of the taxi were lying in a heap, not moving," he said.
He said other children who showed signs of life were still on the ground when he got there, and seemed "dazed" as they tried to get up.
"There was a lot of blood," he said.
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said Metrorail investigators were co-operating with police while commuters on board the Eersteriver-bound train were being bussed to the nearest stations.
The accident happened between Blackheath and Melton Rose Stations.
"Technicians will inspect both lines for safety before resuming services," she said.
Scott said the Buttskop provincial level crossing, where the accident happened, complied with statutory protection requirements such as half booms, warning signage and flashing lights.
"All 34 active level crossings in the region fully comply with statutory and legal requirements. Trains operate at all times with their lights on and sound their sirens on approach to level crossings," she said.
Asked if the half booms - which some drivers reportedly drive around - could be modified to stop this practice, Scott said she didn't want to speculate.
"We will go by whatever the technical investigation team says and whatever recommendations they make," she told News24.
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