They were like my own children: Taxi driver

2011-11-16 14:01

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Cape Town - Judgment in the trial of a minibus taxi driver accused of killing 10 children after he jumped a level crossing and was hit by a train will be delivered on December 12.

Western Cape High Court Judge Robert Henney told the court on Wednesday that closing arguments in the trial of Jacob Humphreys, 55, would be heard on December 9.

He was expected to hand down his verdict three days later on December 12.

Relatives of the 10 victims, who wore T-shirts bearing images of the faces of the children, said they were relieved the case was finally over and they hoped for justice.

Humphreys has pleaded not guilty to the murders. He exercised his right to remain silent. He is out on R20 000 bail.

The crash on August 25 last year killed Liesl August, 11; Cody Erasmus, 15; Jody Phillips, 13; Reece Smith, 7; Nolan February, 13; Michaelin de Koker, 11; Jason Pedro, 14; Nadine Marthinissen, 16; Jeane-Pierre Willeman, 13; and Jade Adams, 10.

Post mortem reports showed that the children died of multiple injuries or head injuries suffered in the crash.

‘They were like my own children’

Humphreys testified this week that he had no recollection of the accident, at the Buttskop level crossing, which happened before dawn on August 25 last year.

"They were like my own children," he said.

"I knew some for more than three years and some for less.

Humphreys said that he had left home a few minutes later than usual that day.

"I didn't take my usual route because one of the children had a death in their family so the girl I usually picked up second, I went to fetch first then went on as usual.

"I got to Frederick Road, which is parallel to the railway. I stopped at the stop street then turned left into Buttskop Road."

During an in loco inspection, it was determined that Humphreys drove 30m on to Buttskop Road before making a U-turn towards the crossing.

"At the stop street, I saw the red lights flashing on the Buttskop side and that the booms were down," he said in testimony quoted by the Cape Times newspaper.

"I stopped after a small white car that slipped in front of me."

Humphreys told the court he had no recollection of what had happened to him or the vehicle after this point.

"The next thing I knew was when I woke up and heard someone screaming for me. I was on the ground in front of the [minibus] and then I was taken to Kuils River Netcare for head injuries.

"Two of my ribs were broken, my left arm and both legs and the right foot was swollen.

"From where I was standing behind the white car, I could've sped up to 30km/h."

Humphreys said he had the documentation he needed to transport children to and from school.

Sighs of relief

"The [minibus] was last checked about two or three months before the accident and nothing was wrong with it."

Humphreys did not dispute that he had previously slipped through the boom. He also said that he had been involved in two previous accidents in the vehicle.

"The first accident was when I stood at the stop street from Kleinvlei. A bus came from Forest Drive and when I went over, it hit the back of the [taxi]," he said.

"The second time was during the World Cup when the roads were busy. It was difficult to see."

He had children in his vehicle on both of these occasions.

During the trial, Henney told defence lawyer Johann Engelbrecht it was common sense for a driver to wait in line behind other vehicles at a red light.

"There's no need for you see the lights," he said.

"You are in a long queue of cars in front of you, then you accept, you wait your turn. It's common sense."

Sighs of relief were heard throughout the court as Henney postponed the trial and adjourned the court.
- SAPA
Read more on:    jacob humphreys  |  cape town  |  schoolbus tragedy
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