‘It felt as if we were dicing’

2012-06-26 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Nineteen people were killed and 55 injured when a packed commuter bus drove at high speed through the railings of a bridge and landed in the stream below, at Meyerton on Gauteng’s East Rand.

Several injured passengers alleged yesterday, as they waited to be treated in hospital, that the driver had been going far too fast. Some even said he had been racing another bus. The driver was one of those killed.

Ishmael Thomas (33), who suffered eight broken ribs, insisted the driver was speeding.

Alina Ntsoele (58) said the driver exceeded the speed limit several times from the time he picked her up in the early morning.

“I was standing near the door when the accident happened,” she said.

She said the second bus arrived at the freeway off-ramp just ahead of theirs, racing past at high speed.

“It felt as if we were dicing. Our driver didn’t slow down when he turned in at the off-ramp,” Ntsoele said.

Most of the 85 passengers on board were travelling from Sebokeng to Henley on Klip (near Meyerton) on their way to work.

Meyerton police spokesperson Captain Shado Mashobane said the accident happened at 7.50 am when the driver tried to make a sharp left turn at the end of the off-ramp.

He said the dead were 13 women and six men.

Two critically injured passengers were airlifted to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, while another 16 were seriously hurt. The others suffered lighter injuries and shock.

An ER24 paramedic was also treated for heat exhaustion and taken to hospital.

It appears that the passengers seated on the left hand side fell onto those on the right of the bus. The accident was also worsened because part of the vehicle sank into the muddy water of the stream.

Mashobane said a Meyerton police officer driving past on the freeway saw the accident happen and immediately summoned emergency services.

Paramedics from the provincial ambulance service, ER24 and Netcare 911 were all involved in extricated the injured and the bodies of the dead from the bus.

A crane was used to raise the wreckage from the stream at about 1 pm, after the last four bodies were finally freed.

Raphiri Matsaneng, a spokesperson for bus company Putco, said they will do an independent investigation into the accident. The bus passed a roadworthy examination on June 14.

The driver had been driving trucks since 1996 and was appointed by Putco last September.

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