Grader kills toddler

2013-02-06 00:00

IT was supposed to have been just another ordinary day in Edendale yesterday. Shortly before 7.30 am, Wandile Ngcobo (3), was having a bath in his father’s room. His cousins and other members of the household in Tafuleni Road, Snathing, also geared up for the day.

Minutes later a runaway grader smashed into the modest home and Wandile lay dead in the rubble.

Four other occupants, including his dad, Sandile Ngcobo, his uncle’s girlfriend Hlengiwe Mdlalose and Wandile’s two cousins, Anele (2) and Alondwe (3) Mdlalose, were injured.

A fifth person, the 71-year-old grader driver, B. Sibisi, was also critically injured. The five were admitted to Edendale Hospital.

At the scene, rescue workers and paramedics battled to remove Wandile’s crushed body as relatives and neighbours watched in horror.

Almost four hours later, two policemen emerged from the destroyed home, clutching two bags containing his remains.

At the time of going to press, only Sibisi and Anele remained in hospital.

Wandile’s grandmother, Melta Ngubane, supported by other members of the family and neighbours, was inconsolable. Wandile’s mother was not present, as she studies in Port Shepstone.

Wandile’s uncle, Wiseman Sibongiseni Kunene, who had been asleep in the house at the time of the crash, stood outside the destroyed part of the home in shock.

A prison warder in New Hanover, he had survived without a scratch.

“There were six of us in the house when the incident occurred and I was in the bedroom at the time,” he told The Witness.

Kunene had heard a loud bang at about 7.30 am and then children crying for help.

“When I opened the door, I saw that half of the house had been completely destroyed. There were already neighbours helping the children and my brother Sandile, who were stuck in the rubble.”

It was the third time that there had been an accident at the house and it was now time to relocate, Kunene said.

“The first was a car crash. Then it was a kombi. In both these accidents the house was narrowly missed and now this.”

Kunene said that he was convinced that Tafuleni Road was a death trap, because of speeding motorists.

His view was echoed by Helen Mkhize, whose home was also damaged, after one of the grader’s wheels came lose and bounded through her wall.

Mkhize said that she was outside her house completing her morning chores, when she heard a noise from her neighbour’s home.

“In seconds, I heard a crashing sound inside my house and when I went to check, I saw a big wheel inside my dining room.”

Mkhize said she did know how she was going to fix or replace the furniture that was destroyed, but this was nothing compared to the pain she felt for her neighbours, who lost a little boy.

It was the worst accident she had ever seen.

“We have been complaining about the speeding motorists on this sharp curve because we wanted to avoid tragedies like this from occurring,” she said.

Mkhize said she hoped something would finally be done to promote road safety in the area.

“We need the municipality to put speed humps, so that cars are forced to slow down on Tafuleni Road,” she added.

She also hoped that she and her neighbours would receive help from the municipality to rebuild their homes.

Other witnesses, including a Amakholwa High School pupil, described how they watched in horror.

The pupil said Sibisi had not jumped out of the grader, but had tried to control it.

“We were so scared because we thought it was going to kill us and I could not even go to school after witnessing such a tragic accident,” said the pupil, who asked not to be named for fear of getting into trouble at school.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said the driver had experienced mechanical problems.

A case of culpable homicide was being investigated.

Police on the scene said the grader’s prop shaft had broken, leading to brake failure.

The grader belonged to Deeplauls Transport and Plant Hire, a service provider contracted by Msunduzi Municipality to upgrade the road.

The owner, Kushal Deeplauls, said while the tyres were worn out, the accident was caused by a broken prop shaft.

“I have given the police the maintenance report, which indicates that the prop shaft was re-manufactured and redone six months ago,” Deeplauls said.

Expressing condolences, Deeplauls said that his company was looking for alternative accommodation in the area to house the affected family.

“We are not taking the blame for what happened, but out of compassion, we feel the need to help them during this difficult period.”

Msunduzi mayor Chris Ndlela, who arrived at the scene yesterday to support the family, expressed concern about the spate of similar accidents in the past few weeks.

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