2011-10-01 00:00

THIRTEEN corpses were laid out on a field at the scene of a horror accident on the New Greytown Road near Copesville yesterday morning after paramedics pulled them from the mangled wreckage of their taxi. Two more passengers died later in hospital. One of the dead was an 11-year-old boy.

The driver of the overloaded taxi that caused the accident faces 15 counts of murder and three of attempted murder, as well as reckless and negligent driving charges.

He was charged on the instruction of regional detective commander Clifford Marion, who said authorities must make an example of him as it is unacceptable for people to die in this way.

The number of fatalities is the most in a single accident in Pietermaritzburg’s history.

The 23-year-old driver escaped with minor cuts to his face and the truck driver escaped without injury.

The truck, carrying an empty container, was on its way from Durban to Greytown and the taxi, carrying 18 passengers, was heading into Pietermaritzburg from Mpolweni.

At about 7.30 am, shortly after passing Copesville, the taxi crossed the barrier line to overtake a long stream of traffic moving slowly towards the Allandale traffic lights. It narrowly avoided two head-on collisions as it charged into oncoming traffic. Then, unable to swerve out of the way, it hit the truck.

The taxi spun around and both the taxi and the truck careered down an embankment before coming to a halt. The truck’s cab crushed the taxi and its occupants.

For hours the police, fire-and-rescue workers and paramedics worked to stabilise survivors and retrieve bodies. They used an angle grinder to cut open the taxi and pull the passengers out. Only five were pulled out alive.

By 9 am bodies were still being pulled out. When the rescuers were finished 13 bodies were laid out at the accident scene in body bags.

A witness, Daniel Govender, blamed reckless driving for the accident. “This guy was travelling fast down the oncoming traffic lane trying to make it to the Allandale robots,” he said.

Community members said taxi drivers are always taking a chance on that road. “They always do this; they just drive fast on the oncoming lane to make it to the robots to avoid being stuck in traffic.”

The United Taxi Association in Mpolweni is conducting an investigation on the accident, said its chairperson. “It is very sad that some of our people have died in such a tragic manner.”

Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said the authorities need to act harshly against offenders because it is not acceptable that so many people are killed in road accidents.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said the driver of the taxi will appear in court on Monday.

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