Eleven killed in crash

2009-03-29 00:00

A horror smash on the N3 near Merrivale yesterday afternoon left 11 people dead, including a taxi driver. Speeding is believed to have been the main cause.

A taxi carrying 15 people crashed into the back of a Timber 24 truck that was broken down in the emergency lane.

Head of the Transport Department Chris Hlabisa who spoke from the accident scene, told The Witness that it seemed the taxi was speeding in the emergency lane.

“Since we are heading for the Easter holidays, we are urging motorists not to speed and to be cautious at all times,” he said.

Four passengers were taken by ambulance to different hospitals in Pietermaritzburg and are in a critical condition. Another was airlifted to Grey’s, but later died.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed that six of those who died were men and five were women.

Police believe the taxi was travelling from Gauteng to Pietermaritzburg. According to an officer at the scene, the vehicle had a private KZN registration number.

The officer said police were working with the other emergency services to remove the bodies from the vehicle.

“When we got here, the ambulances were already at work. Traffic was flowing as usual because it happened in the emergency lane. There were a lot of people from the village near here who came to see what happened,” he said.

The officer said the driver of the truck was not injured, but was shaken up by the accident. “I think she’s more shocked than anything else,” he said.

Transport MEC Bheki Cele said: “I wish to express my deepest condolences to the friends and families of those who have lost their lives.”

He urged motorists to be extra careful and to keep to the speed limit “to avoid such painful death”.

The accident comes just days after the department launched its Easter traffic enforcement programme.

The owner of Timber 24, Peter Christian, said he is sympathetic toward the families of the people who died. “It’s terrible,” he said. “The loss of lives is just terrible.”

Police have not yet contacted the families of the deceased, and have opened a case of culpable homicide.

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