Pregnant woman dies in train crash

2009-12-07 23:25

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Johannesburg - A pregnant woman died and more than 100 people, including a three-month-old baby, were injured when two Shosholoza Meyl trains collided head-on between Potchefstroom and Carletonville on Monday.

"The train shook terribly and then we just saw dust outside," said Janet Fouché, 57, from Orange Grove in Johannesburg.

She had been on her way to Cape Town for a holiday with her mother, Doreen Barendse, 81, and three grandchildren.

"Our carriage was just before the dining room carriage. There was broken glass and cutlery everywhere," said Fouché on Monday, shortly after the accident.

Driver didn't stop

One train, the Trans-Karoo, had been on its way to Cape Town from Johannesburg, and the other, the Tourist first-class, was heading in the opposite direction.

The driver of the second train had apparently neglected to stop at the crossing where the accident occurred, about 20km outside Potchefstroom, said Viwe Mlenzana, chief executive of Shosholoza Meyl, at the scene.

"It was human error. The driver went through the crossing without authorisation," said Mlenzana.

Both trains were apparently supposed to stop in order for one train to pass the other. The one coming from Johannesburg was already standing still, waiting.

Minor injuries

The train driver who had apparently been negligent is one of the 107 people who required hospital treatment, said Lesego Metsi, North West police spokesperson.

According to Metsi, except for four people, everyone was able to get out of the train by themselves and walk towards the ambulances.

The police are investigating a case of culpable homicide.

Thirteen passengers were taken to the Leslie Williams hospital in Carletonville, while most of the others went to Potchefstroom.

A doctor at the scene said some of the injured people were taken as far as the Tshepong hospital outside Klerksdorp.

According to Mlenzana, the 24-year-old pregnant woman, whose identity is not yet known, sustained no visible injuries. She had been in the train going to Johannesburg.

One of this train's passenger carriages stood at an angle on the tracks, but no carriages had derailed completely.

Mlenzana was unable to say exactly how many passengers had been on the trains but in a statement earlier on Monday, Shosholoza Meyl said there were 494 passengers on board the one train and 159 in the other.

'Violent impact'

Those who were unhurt or sustained light injuries spent hours waiting in the sun with their baggage for buses to pick them up to take them to Johannesburg.

Some of Swellendam resident Piet Ntsabelle's teeth were knocked loose, while his wife, Lydia, bit her tongue.

They'd been on their way home after visiting their children in Johannesburg.

Jonathan Abrahams of Johannesburg said there was a "violent impact" where he was sitting, in the carriage immediately behind the locomotive. He had been in the moving train. Family members came to fetch him at the scene.

Mlenzana said they would do everything they could to help the stranded passengers on Monday evening. The accident will delay trains between Johannesburg and Cape Town for the next few days.

According to Sapa, the accident is estimated to have caused damage of R30m.

Earlier reports said that one of the trains was the luxury Premier Classe but this was later denied.

Read more on:    shosholoza meyl  |  accidents

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