Driver ‘was at fault’

2013-09-19 00:00

THE truck company at the centre of the Field’s Hill tragedy that resulted in 23 deaths yesterday released a report that claims driver error led to a vehicle malfunction and this in turn led to the fatal crash.

Driver Sanele May has been charged with 22 counts of murder for the September 5 crash.

Yesterday, forensic collision homicide reconstructionist Stan Bezuidenhout, who has been hired by truck owner Gregory Govender’s Sagekal Logistics to investigate the crash, released his preliminary findings on the cause of the accident.

Bezuidenhout added a disclaimer to his report stating that: “This is NOT a reconstruction report and will NOT be used in evidence, if we testify in court. This is merely … sharing our current thought processes and opinion, as such.”

May’s attorney Professor Lindokuhle Mdletshe yesterday rubbished the report, and said Bezuidenhout could not release a conclusive report without interviewing the driver of the truck:

“It’s nonsensical that there’s no version from Sanele … They don’t know what happened.” He said they were waiting for an independent report from the Transport Department and police.

“Of course the so-called ‘expert’ was hired by the company. Surely he’ll say these things because he was paid,” he added. Mdletshe said May does not believe that his company was absolving itself of blame for the accident.

Sagekal Logistics said they had hired Bezuidenhout because he had a wealth of experience having dealt with over 7 500 accident scenes locally and abroad.

According to Bezuidenhout’s preliminary finding, the collision was due to “operator error” that led to a brake system failure.

He said there was no evidence to suggest that the brake system was compromised prior to May’s departure as new brake linings were fitted in an effort to repair the vehicle and the truck was tested before May left for Johannesburg.

During a memorial service last week, Transport MEC Willies Mchunu announced publicly that the truck’s brakes were non-existent.

On the night of the accident, Mchunu said, he called experts to the scene to inspect the vehicle before it was impounded.

Bezuidenhout also found that May could have been using his brakes to slow the truck coming down Field’s Hill instead of engaging a low gear to control the speed.

He said their examination of the vehicle revealed that the gearbox was in fifth gear when the collision occurred. “This along with the speed analysis indicates that Sanele was not making use of engine gears [primarily] to control the speed of his vehicle.”

He further states that according to their analysis things started going wrong approximately 500 metres before the scene of the collision, where May allegedly accelerated to over 85 km/h and never recovered.

“All indications are that Sanele tried to limit the speed of the vehicle (with a 56-ton load) on foot brake application alone. With commercial vehicles lower gears cannot be selected while the differential between engine and drive shaft speeds are too great,” he added.

“A highly skilled driver with the resolve of a fighter pilot might then actually know to accelerate the engine (to reduce the RPM differential) and might (theoretically) be able to ‘force the gears,’ but this is highly unlikely to work on some kinds of vehicle.”

He said this was unlikely to have been possible under the “veil of emotion and goal fixation which is slow down, brake harder” that May would have experienced.

Bezuidenhout concluded by saying that this could have resulted in over-heating of the friction surfaces, a decline in braking ability and a loss of control over speed and deceleration, as May was now no longer in a position to select a lower gear and recover control.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.