Fourteen die in crushed taxi

2008-07-17 00:00

Thirteen taxi passengers and their driver died in a horrific accident, in which their vehicle was crushed by two trucks, one of which was in the wrong lane, on the R103 near Ladysmith during rush-hour morning traffic yesterday. Only one taxi passenger survived.

It is alleged that the driver of a truck travelling from Ladysmith lost control when he fell asleep at about 7.30 am.

The dead were eight women, five men and one whose gender was not known last night.

“Initially, there were 13 victims who died at the scene, but another died on arrival at the Ladysmith Provincial Hospital,” said Transport spokeswoman Zinhle Mngomezulu.

The truck driver, who fled the scene, will be charged with culpable homicide.

Following the accident, Transport MEC Bheki Cele warned truck drivers to give themselves enough rest before getting behind the wheel in order to avoid accidents.

Mngomezulu said the first truck collided with the minibus, spinning it round to face in the opposite direction, after which another truck hit the taxi.

Also injured in the crash were two employees of a Musica music shop in Ficksburg, who were on their way to Ladysmith.

Gawie van Rensburg (34) and colleague Kat Ingram (18) were in a Madza behind the second truck.

“As we were driving, we suddenly saw the truck driving in the oncoming lane.

“After that I didn’t see what happened except that I woke up to a chaotic situation,” said Van Rensburg.

Van Rensburg suffered cuts on his face and hand, while Ingram broke his collar bone, arm and finger.

Traffic authorities closed the road to allow paramedics, Ladysmith Fire Department and Road Traffic Inspectorate officers to treat the injured and collect the bodies.

Police spokeswoman Captain Charmaine Struwig said the runaway truck first hit the minibus taxi, then another vehicle and another truck.

She said rescue personnel worked until 9 am looking for more victims in long grass on the side of the road.

When contacted at about 2 pm, Ladysmith Fire Department and local Sharaj Ambulance Services officials said their staff were still busy at the scene.

Transport spokeswoman Nonkululeko Mbatha said fatigue remains a challenge for truck drivers.

“Drivers, in general, need to understand that once they feel like sleeping they must immediately park their vehicles and rest,” said Mbatha.

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