Roadlink: Bus gutted on N3

2010-03-23 00:00

HAVING escaped the terrifying ordeal of their bus catching fire and watching helplessly as it burnt to a shell in front of their eyes, along with all their possessions, the passengers and crew of an SA Roadlink bus were then drenched by torrential rain that hit the Balgowan area yesterday afternoon.

Even after the stranded passengers had been picked up by a replacement bus, their woes continued when that bus also broke down about a kilometre along the road.

All 68 passengers and two crew were, however, unhurt.

Colin Govender and Zinhle Mngomezulu of the KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate confirmed that both sides of the N3 highway were periodically affected by road closures for over two-and-a-half hours yesterday afternoon in the wake of the fire on the northbound freeway.

Initially the road was closed while firemen battled to extinguish the flames, and later as a result of the dense smoke.

Govender said it was feared that if traffic was not brought to a standstill, secondary accidents could occur as visibility was extremely poor.

“To add insult to injury, the poor passengers, who lost all their luggage in the fire and were stranded at the side of the road, were then soaked in a downpour,” said Govender.

He said SA Roadlink sent a replacement bus to fetch the passengers.

However, ER24 spokesman Derrick Banks, who was also on the scene, said the second bus broke down soon after picking them up.

He said no one was hurt and that ER24 personnel gave the passengers refreshments.

Banks said the passengers lost everything. Two tourists from the United States lost their passports and plane tickets.

Mngomezulu said the cause of the fire will be fully investigated.

The driver, Avinagh Balbaren, told officials he heard a loud bang at the rear of the bus, which caused him to stop to investigate, fearing a tyre had burst.

He then saw smoke and flames coming from the rear axle.

He tried to put out the fire with a small fire extinguisher, but the flames spread to the luggage compartment underneath the bus. Soon the entire bus was ablaze.

By then the passengers and his bus attendant had all safely disembarked.

SA Roadlink has had a long history of accidents, breakdowns and mishaps that have placed it under scrutiny by the transport authorities.

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