Fully laden taxi plunges off bridge

2013-07-03 00:00

TWO women died when the fully laden taxi they were travelling in plunged over 10 metres down into the uMgeni River near Wartburg yesterday. Three passengers were critically injured in the accident on theR614.

The taxi, carrying 15 passengers and the driver, was allegedly bumped off a bridge by a bakkie that tried to overtake it.

It is alleged the taxi slowed down as it approached the bridge and the bakkie behind it tried to overtake but was unable to as there was another car coming from the opposite direction. The bakkie then allegedly bumped into the taxi, forcing it through the barrier and into the river below.

The taxi was travelling from Wartburg to Pietermaritzburg.

Passenger Makhosazana Majola, who sustained cuts on her head and face, said: “I did not see much at the time. But I remember that the taxi slowed down before it entered the bridge. The next thing I heard a big bang. I did not know what was happening and we were in the water,” said Majola.

A farmer in the area, Heather Herbst, who was among the first on the scene to help, told The Witness that they rushed down to the river to help people in the taxi.

“People were trying to get out and some were already swimming out. Others were shouting for help,” said Herbst.

Paramedics and police search and rescue teams set up rigs to get to the patients. A tow truck came in handy as it was used to help hoist some patients on stretchers up onto the bridge.

It took more than four hours to move the patients and the bodies of the deceased. The road remained closed for the duration of the recovery operation.

The owner of the taxi, Chris Zondo, said he was unable to comment on the accident as he was still in shock.

“I can’t even think straight after this accident as my passengers, my wife and driver were involved in this accident,” said Zondo.

Leaders of the Swayimane and Wartburg taxi associations rushed to the scene when they heard about the accident.

A resident who lives near the bridge, Trevor Kelly, complained about the poor condition of the road.

“This is the third accident on the same road in less than a month but nothing is done. Putting patches on the road makes it more bumpy. They should fix the road,” said Kelly.

ER24 spokesperson Vanessa Jackson said one woman was dead inside the taxi while the other had been swept onto the river bank.

“Three other women who had suffered extensive injuries were airlifted one at a time. Two women were airlifted to Edendale and Mediclinic hospitals in Pietermaritzburg for the care of multiple injuries, including head injuries and multiple broken bones,” said Jackson.

Police are investigating cases of culpable homicide.

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