Mall crash 'just metres from calamity'

2012-01-25 10:33
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Liberty Midlands Mall truck crash

A truck crashed into the wall of Absa bank at the Liberty Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg. One woman died and three others were injured. See the photos.

Pietermaritzburg - Tragic as the Liberty Midlands Mall truck accident on Monday night was, it could have been worse. Explosively so.

Luck played a hand when the speeding truck missed crashing into a storeroom of gas tanks by less than a metre.

Instead, it went into Absa Bank’s forex section, leaving a neat, square hole in the wall.

“Had the truck slammed into the gate less than a metre to the right of where it went through the wall there would have been a disaster,” said mall manager Cassy Fourie. “That is where the mall keeps spare tanks of gas that the restaurants use. The fatality rate would have been very high.”

James Whitby, one of many onlookers on Tuesday morning when police, emergency services and the fire department cleared the mess, remarked: “Imagine if the accident had happened at 10:00 [and not 22:00], when the parking lot would have been full of cars.”

Culpable homicide

The clean-up operation began at 05:45 and finished just after 21:30.

Police confirmed that they would open a case of culpable homicide and reckless driving against the driver, but by Tuesday evening no arrests had been made.

Spokesperson Captain Dolf Otto of the police's Accident Investigation Unit told The Witness the driver was being treated for minor injuries at St Anne’s Hospital.

“We checked his blood-alcohol level and he was not under the influence at the time of the accident,” said Otto, who could not release the names of the driver and his co-driver.

Four people injured in the accident were still in hospital on Tuesday night, but no word could be obtained on their conditions.

Otto said the driver had a valid licence.

After crashing through a gate into the mall’s parking lot from Chatterton Road, the truck knocked down trees, crashed into five cars and killed pedestrian Alice Jogessar before hitting the mall’s wall.

Jogessar, a 69-year-old former teacher, was a pillar in the Pietermaritzburg community and wore many coats: a mother, a humanitarian, a teacher, an estate agent, a people’s person and much more.

She had been dining with a friend and went to the Milky Lane for ice creams before walking into the parking lot, where they saw the runaway truck and heard a loud noise.

“It was so loud I thought it was a thunderstorm,” her friend told The Witness.

“It was too fast and the truck took everything that was in its way.”

The widow leaves three children.

Brakes


Initial speculation was that failed brakes might have caused the accident. This surprised Kerry Lennon, Germiston-based owner of Magimax Manufacturing, whose truck it was.

“Before any of our trucks embark on a long journey they go through full inspections,” said Lennon, who added the company was conducting its own investigation into the accident.

“If the truck was unroadworthy it would not have been on the road,”

Had the truck’s brakes failed, the driver could have used a number of arrester beds on the highway to slow down.

Manny de Sousa, who works in the road maintenance division of the South African National Roads Agency Limited, said that all arrester beds on the route are maintained on a daily basis.

Morning visitors to the mall were surprised at the sight of the truck stuck into the wall and the mess around the scene, saying this was something that had never happened before.

Kelly Jacquire, an Absa client, was on her way to her branch in the mall.

“I just thought, oh my God, when I saw one of the crashed cars and then we saw the truck through the brick wall,” she said. “It was unbelievable.”

When the truck was finally towed out of the hole it punched into the wall, it showed little damage. Workers just removed bricks that had fallen on the cab’s roof.

Afterwards, a coffee shop in the mall offered free cups of coffee to people involved in the recovery operation.

A model helicopter, equipped with a camera, hovered around.

Police have appealed to the public for information on the accident.

Witnesses can contact Warrant Officer Brett Rasmussen at 071?607?0128.

Facebook users show concern

Comments on the Witness Facebook page on Tuesday expressed concern for the truck driver.

Debbie McIlroy said: “OMG what speed was he going at! Driver’s foot must have been on accelerator to keep up at speed! I saw pics of his entrance he was on a flat road!! And hit fence first then 7 cars! Something doesn’t add up!”

Cindy McCarthy said: “Maybe no [brakes], poor guy, imagine how awful this was for him as well! Unless drunk driving or speeding is to be confirmed, I feel for him as well! I would have bailed!!!!

Jes Ladybug Bedingfield said: “I’m pretty sure this driver didn’t intend on doing this, it seems very likely that his brakes failed. I’m sure if he was sleeping, he would’ve woken up at least after the fence …”

- Were  you there? Send us your stories and photos.
Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  accidents
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
12 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
SPONSORED CONTENT
Investment tips you need to know 2015-01-29 14:07

Ever wondered how to assess your future potential liability? Feroz Basa, Senior Portfolio Manager Old Mutual Investment Group, weighs in on all the investment tips you need to know. WATCH.

/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 40% on outdoor accessories!

Tents, sleeping, day packs and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Month End Madness Sale!

Save up to 60% on across a wide range of goods from books to electronics, DVDs and many more. Sale end 31 January 2015. Shop now!

Valentine’s Day gifts – 14 Feb!

Gifts to spoil him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off fragrances

Get 30% off fragrances for him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off All Textbooks

Save up to 30% off an extensive range of prescribed textbooks for all major universities and FET colleges. Shop Now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something is blocking the flow of things today and it is easy to become frustrated and pessimistic. The problem is that your mind...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.