Train crash appeal denied

2015-01-21 00:00

A DURBAN man has failed to convince high court appeal judges that he didn’t drive recklessly when he crashed into a passenger train at a level crossing at Rocky Bay on the South Coast on June 1, 2012.

Diwesh Ramphal (32) of Riverside testified at his trial in the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court that he had stopped at the crossing, looked left and right, and took off slowly when he did not see a train approaching. He said he did not see any lights nor hear the train hooting.

The next moment the train hit his bakkie and he woke up in hospital.

Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel and Judge Isaac Madondo, however, accepted the evidence of train driver Ronnie Boy Stewart, who said Ramphal’s car didn’t stop at the level crossing.

In Ramphal’s favour, the appeal judges said there was no proof that Ramphal’s bakkie was “trying to beat the train”, as suggested by the train driver.

However, the judges found it was unlikely that Ramphal would not have seen the approaching train if he did in fact stop at the crossing.

Judge van Amstel said the level crossing was clearly signposted and there nothing to gainsay the train driver’s evidence that the lights were on in the coaches and the engine, and that he’d hooted as he approached the intersection.

The appeal court confirmed Ramphal’s ­sentence — a fine of R20 000 or 12 months’ ­imprisonment, half suspended.

Judge van Amstel said the sentence was ­severe, bearing in mind Ramphal was a tiler by trade, earning R4 000 per month, a married man and a father. However, he also had a ­previous conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.

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