Truck driver found guilty of deaths of 24 farm workers

2013-11-12 16:13

The driver whose truck collided with a goods train, killing 24 farm workers, has been found guilty of culpable homicide.

George Mandlazi (33) appeared in the Nelspruit Circuit of the High Court in Pretoria today, where he explained that while he pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of murder and 23 of attempted murder, he pleaded guilty to 24 counts of culpable homicide and one of negligent driving, a Sapa correspondent reported.

“I was driving the truck on July 13 [2012], I didn’t stop at the crossing, I didn’t see the train or try looking. When I was already crossing I heard a hoot and the accident happened, which led to the deaths and injuries, for which I’m very sorry,” his lawyer Melanie Erasmus read from her client’s plea statement.

Mandlazi, who sat quietly in court with his mother, wept as Erasmus read out the statement. When asked if he agreed with the statement, he sobbed and said “I agree”.

The State accepted the plea and withdrew the murder and attempted murder charges, leading Judge Nomsa Khumalo to find him guilty on the lesser charges.

“The accused has been found guilty on 24 counts of culpable homicide and the court further finds you guilty of driving negligently on a public road,” Khumalo said.

His R3 000 bail was extended until tomorrow, when the court would hear sentencing arguments.

Mandlazi was arrested on July 13 2012 after the truck he was driving collided with a goods train going from Emalahleni to Maputo, Mozambique.

The truck was ferrying 47 seasonal farm workers between Malelane and Hectorspruit when the accident happened at a level crossing. 19 people were killed on the scene. Five others died on their way to hospitals. Another 23 people were injured.

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