19 die in horror crash

2017-08-21 10:37
Authorities and paramedics that were tending to the debris of the taxi under the bridge.

Authorities and paramedics that were tending to the debris of the taxi under the bridge. (Supplied )

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Pietermaritzburg - Speeding, brakes that failed on a downhill and overloading was recipe for disaster that led to the horror taxi crash that claimed 19 lives at Msunduzi Bridge near Nagle Dam on Sunday.

These claims are being investigated after horrific scenes of trauma and anguish played out in KwaXimba near Cato Ridge as relatives arrived at the scene of the accident off the Msunduzi Valley main road.

The overloaded minibus transporting 26 members of the Inkonyane Zion Church crashed into a bridge barrier and overturned, rolling down an embankment.

The church members were on their way to a tombstone unveiling ceremony in the Umvini area in KwaXimba.

According to witnesses, the driver of the speeding minibus had struggled to apply brakes as the vehicle approached the bridge.

The speeding vehicle then crashed into the Msunduzi Bridge.

“We saw the taxi speeding down towards the bridge from the top. Another vehicle was coming up in the opposite direction. We think the driver was trying to avoid crashing into the oncoming vehicle when he ploughed down the side before the bridge,” a local eyewitness said.

Some family members stood next to the bodies of their loved ones, sobbing uncontrollably. A son lay on the ground crying for help after identifying his mother’s body.

He was later supported by family and friends who tried to comfort him. In a hoarse voice he kept screaming out, “God, why have you forsaken me”.

As authorities continued to tend to the debris of the taxi that lay scattered under the bridge, more family members who arrived at the scene could be heard wailing.

Locals who gathered at the accident scene, which had been cordoned off by police, stood in shock as the bodies of the dead that were strewn all over the ground were being covered by authorities.

ER24 paramedics said when they arrived at the crash site, 15 bodies were lying around the minibus taxi.

“Paramedics assessed the patients and found that all 15 had already succumbed to their multiple injuries.

“Nothing more could be done for them and they were declared dead on the scene,” said ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring.

Meiring said paramedics were informed that members of the community had rushed approximately 12 other occupants to a nearby clinic roughly 100 metres away.

“Assessments at the clinic showed that five had sustained critical injuries while the remaining had sustained injuries ranging from minor to serious.”

He said the critically injured patients were provided with advanced life support interventions.

“Unfortunately, after some time, four of the critically injured patients succumbed to their injuries.”

Ward 1 councillor Musa Mkhize said he received a call from community members alerting him about the accident. “I was also on my way to the same ceremony when I got the call about the accident.

“Most of these women were heads of their households and breadwinners.

“It is very heartbreaking that a taxi that was operating illegally in our area has killed so many people.”

Mkhize said it was allegedly established that the taxi belonged to a taxi owner from Wentworth. “We have been trying to call the taxi owner to establish how his taxi was operating here illegally.

“His phone has been on and off but we hope the police will be able to assist.”

KZN Transport, Community Safety and Liason MEC Mxolisi Kaunda, who was also at the scene, said he was awaiting a full vehicle report.

“It is alleged the driver failed to apply his brakes, which led to this horrific accident. We are still awaiting a report in terms of the vehicle and its fitness but what we have observed is that the brakes were not in good condition.”

Kaunda said 17 of those who died were women. “Most of the families here no longer have mothers who were looking after them.

“This is a great loss to the nation and the province. We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to all the affected family members.”

As bodies of the deceased were loaded into mortuary vans, the remains of handbags and shoes lay scattered next to where the bodies were found. Church members gathered for a prayer before leaving the accident scene.

Survivors were transported by various services to nearby hospitals for urgent care.

The minibus taxi, which is certified to carry 16 passengers, had been carrying 26 when the accident happened.

The names of the dead had not been released on Sunday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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