UPDATE: Train and truck collision death toll now at 19

Bloemfontein – At least 19 people have been confirmed dead after a Shosholoza Meyl passenger train crashed into a truck and another car near Kroonstad, in the Free State, resulting in a billowing blaze, according to authorities.

The head of the province's Emergency Medical Services and Forensic Pathology Services said in a statement on Friday that they had confirmation of the death of eight men, five women, four girls, and two undetermined individuals.

The deadly incident took place on Thursday, resulting in several injuries as the train burst into flames after colliding with the two vehicles.

"A fire had broken out in one of the carriages and had begun to spread," ER24's Russell Meiring said in a statement after the accident. He added that paramedics had found several carriages on their sides.

READ: Manslaughter probe opened after deadly train crash

According to the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), "the truck, which was hauling two trailers, was dragged on the railway line for about 139 metres, resulting in the derailment of six train coaches".

Mondli Mvambi of the province's health department said there was initial confusion over the number of dead bodies found on the scene, leading to reports of different figures.

"The problem is that the numbers are being inflated because initially, it was body bags that were being counted, not necessarily people's bodies. The body bags contain mortal remains which are then sent to a lab and reconstructed into full bodies," he explained.

He told News24 that rescue operations had been halted.

"The work is done. The only team remaining at the scene is Prasa's [the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa] team that are removing carriages and starting to reconstruct the railway," he said.

The spokesperson said a 14-year-old boy, with multiple fractures, was the only victim still recovering at Boitumelo hospital.

ALSO READ: 3 children, pregnant woman among those recovering after Kroonstad train crash

Mvambi added that a multidisciplinary team would meet on Monday, January 8, to calculate the total death toll and establish the identities of those who died.

The police's Brigadier Motantsi Makhele told News24 that a culpable homicide case had been opened, but that no one has been arrested yet.

"That will depend on the investigation," he added.

Meanwhile, the RSR has launched a preliminary investigation into the crash, saying that it will release preliminary findings on Monday.

It is also in the process of establish a board of inquiry to look into the cause of the accident, with the aim of preventing future accidents.

Those who are looking for information about their loved ones have been urged to contact Shosholoza Meyl's emergency number on 011 544 9623.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nappies, they cost too much
6% - 263 votes
Formula and food, it's getting so expensive
18% - 713 votes
Creche and school fees are a struggle every month
76% - 3071 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
15.98
+0.7%
Rand - Pound
19.80
+0.3%
Rand - Euro
16.78
+0.3%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.21
-0.2%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+1.1%
Gold
1,815.47
-0.1%
Silver
21.45
+0.2%
Palladium
2,029.50
+0.6%
Platinum
933.00
-0.5%
Brent Crude
109.11
-2.6%
Top 40
62,494
0.0%
All Share
69,083
0.0%
Resource 10
71,795
0.0%
Industrial 25
76,804
0.0%
Financial 15
16,026
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE