Accident causes N3 chaos

2013-02-18 00:00

CHAOS reigned on the N3 yesterday afternoon, with traffic backed up several kilometres, when two trucks crashed into each other, and then into a construction bakkie near Liberty Midlands Mall, claiming the life of a truck driver’s assistant.

One of the trucks — carrying waste paper from Howick to Pietermaritzburg — exploded after crashing in the construction area near the Sanctuary Road bridge.

Odell Chakwuya, who was in one of the trucks, said another truck, which was trying to get past them, suddenly slowed down when the road started to narrow.

“The other truck clipped our trailer, and we hit the side of the bridge [over the freeway],” he said.

Chakwuya said the brakes on his truck had failed prior to the crash.

He and the driver managed to climb out of the wreckage, but their assistant did not make it out.

Shortly thereafter, the truck exploded, sending a plume of black smoke into the air that could be seen from kilometres away.

One person from the other truck was seriously injured, while two construction workers suffered minor injuries. They were taken to hospital by ambulance.

Traffic was diverted at Hilton and was backed up to Merrivale.

Dereck Lawson, who lives in ­Macleroy Road, Northern Park, said he was working in his garden when he heard a truck hooting while travelling down the N3.

“He was on his hooter all the way. After the hooter stopped, I heard a bang. I later went down there to see what had happened.

“I think his brakes had failed and he was trying to warn people by hooting,” said Lawson.

Sihle Ngubane said he was at his flat at Riversend, Chasedene, about 500 metres away, when he heard a loud bang.

“When we got here, we saw the fire and the smoke,” he said.

Kerry-Lee Simmonds, who was having lunch at Lakeside Café, about 300 to 400 metres away, said there was a loud bang before she saw smoke rising from where the truck had crashed.

“About 10 minutes later, there was another loud bang, and it was louder than the first one,” she said.

Traffic on the Santuary Road bridge and in the vicinity of the mall was gridlocked as people parked their cars at the roadside to watch the truck burn. The N3 was only reopened at about 10 pm.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said a case of culpable homicide was being investigated.

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