15 killed in horror crash Paramedics face a gruesome task

2015-08-18 10:02
The remains of a minibus taxi in which 15 people died after it was hit by a train in Shakaskraal.

The remains of a minibus taxi in which 15 people died after it was hit by a train in Shakaskraal. (KZN EMS)

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GRUESOME scenes awaited paramedics and emergency workers who responded to a horror accident in which a taxi was struck by a passenger train at Shakaskraal late yesterday, killing 15 people.

The minibus taxi they were travelling in veered off the road, somersaulting off a bridge before landing on a railway line and being struck by a train after 4.30 pm yesterday.

Hours after the taxi was hit by a Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) train, bodies still remained mangled in the horrific wreckage, with body parts and pieces of the taxi strewn over a distance of some 200 metres, according to Chris Botha of Netcare 911.

IPSS rescue operations manager Paul Herbst described the scene was “chaotic” with pieces of the taxi and the bodies of its passengers “scattered all over the tracks”.

“Families of the deceased and injured are arriving at the scene and we are trying to keep them back while emergency services attend to the scene. It is very sad,” Herbst said from the scene last night.

Herbst added that the crash did not result in the train derailing and no occupants of the train “appear to be injured”.

A fire fighter on scene, who would not be named, described the scene as “absolutely horrific”.

Botha said the taxi was travelling next to the N2 when it went over the bridge, landing on the railway line. He said the impact of the train on the taxi was massive.

“It ripped the taxi apart. It was a miracle that six people survived the initial impact. The occupants of the taxi and the accident debris was spread over a very large area.

“One of the survivors was critically injured with four seriously injured,” said Botha. One person died later in hospital.

Botha added that the driver of the minibus taxi died upon impact.

He said that the collision must have been traumatic for the passengers and drivers in the train. “You can’t stop, you can’t swerve.”

Eye-witness Kapil Singh of Durban described the recovery process as “chaotic”. Although he was not allowed too close to the scene, he said that he could see what he described as “a dozen of silver papers” surrounding the scene.

Singh was referring to thermal blankets used by emergency services to cover bodies.

“There is just so much commotion. There are lights and sirens everywhere and you can hear people screaming instructions. Everyone is just hustling about in a panic and there are people around watching in shock,” Singh said.

He said it was “nightmarish” as emergency services were scraping up body parts and putting them into bags.

“I could not watch anymore. I felt light-headed just by being there.”

Speaking to The Witness last night, Sifiso Zulu, the spokesperson for KwaDukuza Municipality, said, “Our fire and traffic department was immediately deployed and remained on scene. Mayor Ricardo Mthembu also went to the scene.”

Madhun Singh, DA caucus leader for KwaDukuza and constituency head for the Ilembe Region for the DA, said, “Looking at timing of accident it was a peak hour accident. That stretch of road is dangerous.

“We have concerns about overloading and speeding … We need to jack up our traffic safety in peak hours. This could have been avoided. There could have been breadwinners and students returning home.

“The taxi industry must take stock of this as it is increasingly becoming a dangerous mode of transport.”

Vukani Mbabe, mayor of Ilembe District Municipality, said, “It is an unfortunate situation but people don’t respect that junction. This is the second time in hardly a year when lives have been lost on this stretch of road. Last year 12 people died in and about the same area in a single accident.”

Kwanele Ncalane, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Transport (DoT), speaking from the scene, said, “It’s a painful scene. It’s traumatic and shocking. The community members are out in their numbers to offer their assistance.”

He said the DoT will institute a full investigation into the accident and condition of the road to see what improvements can be done to avoid this in future.

In another incident yesterday, Net­care911 reported that two people died while 32 were injured after a taxi slammed into a bakkie on the N2 north near the Sezela off-ramp yesterday afternoon.

NETCARE 911’s Chris Botha said it was hard for paramedics to cope with traumatic scenes like this one. “When you are physically going through body parts that used to be people, it’s very hard. We have a counselling group that we take staff to, to help them deal with these scenarios.”

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