'I found people lying in pieces. I will never forget what I saw'

2015-08-20 17:28
(Amanda Khoza, News24)

(Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban – When gospel artist Hlengiwe Mhlaba sang After today my life will never be the same again, Ronald Mbonambi, 65, rested his elbows on his knees and wept.

He and 14 other families gathered for a mass memorial service at the Groutville Market Sports Field on Thursday. They could not control their emotions as they remembered their loved ones who died in Monday’s horrific crash.

Mbonambi’s son, Thamsanqa, 25, was among those who died when the taxi they were travelling in plunged off a bridge and landed on a railway track before being hit by a train.

It was Sthembiso Khambule’s bloodshot eyes that reflected his pain as he stood with the other families. The 29-year-old was at his brother’s bedside when he took his last breath at Stanger Hospital on Monday.

Recounting what happened, Khambule said he was worried when his brother, Sphiwe, 22, didn't arrive home.

"He goes to work at 07:00 and knocks off at 15:00. We noticed that it was getting late and we tried to call him, but there was no answer."

A neighbour informed Khambule about an accident at Shaka’s Head and asked if everyone had been accounted for.

"He said we must call my brother and ask him if he had been involved in the accident. We tried to call him again, but there was no answer. He was with his friend Thamsanqa Mbonambi; we tried both of them on their phones, but we could not reach them," he said.

'I heard the machine signalling that he was gone'

Khambule said he feared the worst because the taxi was travelling from Zimbali, where his brother worked. The family searched the scene of the accident and the KwaDukuza South African Police Service mortuary, but Sphiwe was not there.

"We were told that he was among those who were rushed to the hospital. So we went to the hospital. When we got there, he was still breathing, but he was badly hurt.

"The doctor told us that he was not going to make it. They said I must talk to him. My eyes welled with tears and there was a lump in my throat, which made it difficult for me to speak.

"I eventually got the courage and, as I was speaking to him, I heard the machine signalling that he was gone," said Khambule.

KwaZulu-Natal Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said a preliminary investigation into the crash revealed that the taxi did not stop at the stop street.

Mchunu also disclosed that the taxi may have been speeding.

"Structural engineers are looking into that particular spot, we have been informed that... taxis use that particular place as a taxi stop to pick up and drop off commuters.

"What is clear is that the taxi did not stop at the stop street as expected and there are also suspicions that the driver had been speeding."

He said the families did not want a mass funeral.

"They wanted a joint memorial service because they will be holding funeral services at different areas. Government has honoured its commitment to assist [the families] through the Road Accident Fund."

Mchunu said he learnt only this week that this was not the first time an accident had occurred at the same spot.

KwaDukuza Mayor Richardo Mthembu said it was seldom that politicians were at a loss for words, but this particular case was one such example.

"I was in a meeting when I received a call and I rushed to the scene and I found people lying there in pieces. I will never forget what I saw, it’s painful."

List of deceased

The Department of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison provided the names of the deceased. Only some of the ages were provided:

Jacob Mhlongo, 28, Nelisiwe Dube, 29, Zakhona Dube, 26, Bongiwe Ngcobo, 41, Lindani Xulu, 23, Lethiwe Makhathini, 25, Nelisiwe Ngcobo, 43, Phazama Mthembu, 50, Nonkululeko Dlamini, 37, Thamsanqa Mbonambi, 25, Khulekani Dludla, 29, Vumenjani Nzimande, 29, Nonhlanhla Ndlela, 44, Sphiwe Khambule, Mzokhona Khuzwayo and Lindelani Msebeni.

Read more on:    willies mchunu  |  durban  |  accidents

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