Train: slams into bakkie, teen dies

2009-01-14 00:00

A teenage girl died when the bakkie she was in was hit by a train at a level crossing in Edendale on Tuesday night, bringing to six the number of people killed by trains countrywide this month.

The 18-year-old girl died of head injuries at the scene and the driver of the bakkie was severely injured when a goods train hit the vehicle, pushing it off the railway tracks and on to its side.

The bakkie driver, Vusi Ngidi (26), drove the Opel Corsa, which belonged to his brother Welcome, on to the level crossing as the train approached and the train driver could not stop it from hitting the passenger side of the bakkie.

Welcome Ngidi told The Witness that the girl was his girlfriend, but he did not know her surname, so the girl could not be identified yesterday. “We had been going out for almost three months, but I only knew her as Zinhle from Ashdown.”

Ngidi lives in Howick and said he sent his brother to Pietermaritzburg earlier in the day. “I had been waiting for Vusi to come back, but after a long time my aunt phoned to tell me about the accident.”

The police are investigating a case of culpable homicide. Spoornet is also conducting an investigation.

Spoornet spokesman Mike Asefovitz said train drivers experience an “incredible amount of trauma” because of these accidents.

“The driver can see what is ahead, but cannot do anything about it because it takes up to one kilometre for a fully-laden goods train to stop when the driver applies brakes in an emergency.”

Asefovitz appealed to motorists to adhere to road signs and rules. “According to law, vehicles should come to a standstill at a level crossing to ensure that there is no train coming.”

In the wake of the recent railway deaths, the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) filed a Section 77 Protest Notice with the National Economic Development and Labour Council. Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said level crossings in the country are not safe, blaming Spoornet and the government.

“Just last week four people were killed in similar circumstances at a level crossing in the Western Cape and a 15-year-old girl was killed and a woman severely injured when they were hit by a train while trying to cross the tracks on foot in Park Rynie on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast,” George said.

Asefovitz said Spoornet is undertaking an awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of crossing railway lines. “We are engaged in an education programme in schools with the hope that if we educate children they will pass the message on to parents.”

He said other campaigns involve taxi associations and religious organisations.

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