'Driver may have ignored boom'

2010-08-25 10:57

Cape Town - Preliminary investigations into an accident that killed nine schoolchildren in Blackheath, just outside Cape Town on Wednesday morning indicate that the driver of the minibus they were travelling in tried to cross the train tracks while the boom was down, say police.

"A case of culpable homicide is being investigated," police spokesperson Billy Jones told News24.

Jones said the minibus was carrying 13 pupils from Kasselsvlei High School, Sarepta High School, Bellville South Primary School and Bellville Technical High School. Eight children were confirmed dead on the scene while the ninth died in hospital.


A student at Bellville Technical High School told News24 teachers at the school are sending pupils back home after at least two pupils from the school were killed in the accident.

The student, who did not want her name mentioned, said she was still trying to deal with the trauma.

"I don't know where my head is at the moment," she said.

She said one of the pupils killed was a 16-year-old first team hockey player in Grade 10 while the other was a girl in Grade 8.

The school confirmed that two of their pupils died in the accident.

'A lot of blood'

Witness Marvin Swaartbooi, who said he got to the scene just after the accident happened, told News24 it was clear the taxi driver had tried to jump the tracks while the boom was down.

He said the train had smashed into the back of the taxi, throwing the children out.

"The children who had been at the back of the taxi were lying in a heap, not moving," he said.

He said other children who showed signs of life were still on the ground when he got there, and seemed "dazed" as they tried to get up.

"There was a lot of blood," he said.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said Metrorail investigators were co-operating with police while commuters on board the Eersteriver-bound train were being bussed to the nearest stations.

The accident happened between Blackheath and Melton Rose Stations.

Legal requirements

"Technicians will inspect both lines for safety before resuming services," she said.

Scott said the Buttskop provincial level crossing, where the accident happened, complied with statutory protection requirements such as half booms, warning signage and flashing lights.

"All 34 active level crossings in the region fully comply with statutory and legal requirements. Trains operate at all times with their lights on and sound their sirens on approach to level crossings," she said.

Asked if the half booms - which some drivers reportedly drive around - could be modified to stop this practice, Scott said she didn't want to speculate.

"We will go by whatever the technical investigation team says and whatever recommendations they make," she told News24.

- Were you there? Anything to share?

  • Jillian - 2010-08-25 11:14

    Whilst I support hearing news as it happens, I do think too much information regarding the identities of the victims is disclosed far too early especially when it comes to children. Imagine being a parent or family member and reading these details before you've heard it first-hand. Nevertheless, my sincere condolences to the families of these poor children who've lost their lives due to the gross negligence of one person.

  • waylenn solomons - 2010-08-25 11:40

    Metrorail should change half booms at level crossings to full boooms that spans right across the road surface. This will reduce accidents significantly.

  • Jaz - 2010-08-25 11:41

    Driver should be burned alive coz these ediots (and thats all the taxi drivers)can never wait, I hope he suffers the pig..

  • Ascendo Tuum - 2010-08-25 11:41

    A taxi driver, ignoring the rules of the road?? Say it aint so!!

  • Damien - 2010-08-25 11:42

    It Pains me to hear these type of stories of pure negligence. No type of sentence can bring back those children. So how do you prevent this from happening again? Side comment: There are way too many retards on the roads as well

  • Brent Du Toit - 2010-08-25 11:43

    I drove pass this accident this morning and it was terrible. I hope that the LAW will take its course with the driver and also stronger safety measures put in place. For the families of the school kids that dies...our prayers and heartfelt sympathy is with you in this time of mourning.

  • Colleen - 2010-08-25 11:43

    My heart goes out to all the parents and family that lost family memebers.
    However these taxi drivers think that road signs do not apply to them and our goverment calls them public transport so they can be exempt from the green tax. When will our goverment stop being afraid of taxi drivers and arrest them for killing our people.

  • roger - 2010-08-25 11:44

    Hang the bus driver.

  • jeff - 2010-08-25 11:44

    there u have it again the taxi drivers dont adhere to any rules on the road,and now we have nine schoolkids dead.i hope this is an eye opener for our goverment to do something about these kind of drivers!!!!

  • IAN SOLOMONS - 2010-08-25 11:45

    I often use that very crossing, and it angers me at people disregard for safety! That STILL remains a STOP street even if the booms are up.People get upset when one stops just as the boom starts to lower...this accident is testomony to peoples inability to follw rules - This Driver should be held accountable - my heart goes out to those parents and families who have lost their kids this morning.

  • Susan de Klerk - 2010-08-25 11:47

    What a disgraceful tragedy this is. If the driver is alive, he should be locked up for life. Why don't they make level crossings safer by installing booms that close the crossing completely making it impossible to get through when a train is coming. Losing our precious children is heartbreaking and devastating for their families.

  • Dolski - 2010-08-25 11:49

    This Half Boom thing should be stopped, I live in that area and Taxi drivers and other suicidal people normally go past that half boom if closed.This regulations should change to modify the boom so that people cannot drive past.
    Accidents will keep happening until this is done...

  • Gabriel Melim - 2010-08-25 11:49

    This accident and the carnage is as a result of the taxi drivers' total disrespect for the laws of the road.
    Being a regular commuter between the Northern Suburbs and Salt River I often witness situations where taxis just cross red robots in the face of oncoming traffic.
    They have no respect for their own life, the lives of the passengers they carry or the other road users.

  • Pieter - 2010-08-25 11:51

    This is so sad. Something so terrible can happen because of one persons irresponsibleness. My prayers and thoughts go out to the parents of the children.

  • Ann - 2010-08-25 11:52

    Ok... so i get the fact that the driver might have ignored the booms but seriously dont you think that now is the time to do something about the crossing?
    I mean how many more lives are going to be lost there before a bridge is built of something?
    Today has got to be the worst day ever for the parents of those innocent kids.

    Im asking you guys now "when is something going to be done there?
    I remember people calling to the mayors show on heart 104.9 last year sometime also complaining about it but nothing gets done!!!!!!

    Something has to be done as soon as possible

  • Brent Nicol - 2010-08-25 11:52

    This is very sad for me as a parent to think of what must have gone through the little minds of such young children. Many questions will be asked and there must be answers to those questions. Lets stand together as a nation and support the families who have lost loved ones. This is very sad and I will continue to pray for these families.

  • janna - 2010-08-25 11:53

    This is murder..fully aware of what he was doing and still went through with it...shoot him at day break on the parade in Cape Town

  • Coral - 2010-08-25 11:55

    I wish we had the death sentence back!!! That man made a VERY stupid judgement and thanks to that nine children are DEAD... If that we're my child ... well all i can say is that he'd be lucky he's in police custody. STUPID STUPID MAN!!!!!

  • Pat - 2010-08-25 11:55

    The driver of the taxi must be charged with murder!!!! My thoughts go out to the parents of the children involved. Very sad

  • Chris - 2010-08-25 11:56

    My deepest sympathy to the parents, family and friends of those kids who perished.
    You are in my prayers.

  • Zama - 2010-08-25 11:56

    May their souls rest in peace. And the minibus driver, may he rest in pieces, how could he try to cross while the boom was down. Idiot.

  • upset - 2010-08-25 11:57

    so tragic! i hope that this driver does not die. he needs to live with what he did and be punished for the rest of his sorry life. this is so uneccessary

  • taxihater - 2010-08-25 11:57

    Taxi Drivers think they own the road and look what it leads too. Surely they should start caring about this, but they dont care they will stil drive like hooligans.. BAN TAXI drivers!! and bring back the normal buss

  • R Cameron - 2010-08-25 11:59

    If the driver of the taxi Deliberately drove around the boom,He must be charge with murder not culpable homicide!

  • HILDEGARD LOMBARD - 2010-08-25 11:59

    These taxi drivers must be dealt with. My heart goes out to those families.

  • max1 - 2010-08-25 12:00

    They should really make a plan with these taxi drivers who are totally ignorant of the lives they have with them , i have seen numerous accidents involving taxis where the driver was totally ignorant or in a hurry , they jump red lights, drive in yellow side lines, basically during peak traffic times they drive just as they want, unpoliced.. they need to be stopped , they have total disregard for the safety of their passengers, they just want to make money, alot of these taxis get hired for the day and the guys try and make as much money as possible before they have to return the taxi at days end, alot still dont have operating permits or drivers lisence and unroadworthy vechiles... the public needs to wake up and realise thier lives are in the hands of taxi drivers that dont care about them, there are a few taxis that operate correctly, unfortunately ther is only a few of them

  • Guy - 2010-08-25 12:02

    Of course he "jumped" the boom. Taxi drivers jump red lights & stop signs. Why would a rail boom be treated any differently?

  • bammy - 2010-08-25 12:02

    Surely traffic officers need to take action against these drivers now. Enough people have lost their lives due to the selfishnesss of taxi drivers!!

  • Dudley - 2010-08-25 12:02

    Sad to hear of the tragic loss of youth in their prime due to fatal act of driver. Condolences to each of the families affected.Hope the crossing gets closed down permanently.

  • Anti Taxi - 2010-08-25 12:03

    WHEN will they get rid of these menaces of the road !!!!!

  • melissa - 2010-08-25 12:05

    I think that whoever builds those booms or whatever should make longer booms because taxi drivers ride past them as if its normal I wish they put the taxi driver behind bars he deserves to rot

  • DEEH - 2010-08-25 12:07

    My heart goes out to the families of these children.Senseless deaths, so unneccesary.May God be with all of these families.

  • Jennifer - 2010-08-25 12:07

    The driver should be held accountable for 9 counts of murder because that is exactly what it is. I wish taxi drivers could all realise that all barriers and warnings are there for a reason. Red means STOP. Orange means if you are still 100m away STOP. IF you drive a bit faster you're not going to make it past the train or the car or whatever. You are transporting people's children, parents, friends and grandparents. You should guard them as if they were your own.. Become responsible please!!!!

  • jacques - 2010-08-25 12:10

    Nothing will happen to these taxi drivers, they are either comrades or they will just go on strike, this country is riddled with lawlessness and will reap the fruit of it

  • concerned - 2010-08-25 12:11

    The driver should be charged for murder. His actions reflect the selfish attitude of most taxi drivers and the fact that most never put their passangers safety first before their own agendas. Clearly this driver was focused on the next load of passangers he was to pick up or on hoping to get to the taxi rank early so that he could get into the front of the line so that he could make more money for the day.
    His sentance should be harsh and used as an example to all taxi drivers out there who only care about lining their own pockets even at the cost of their passangers lives.

  • Ricardo Absalon - 2010-08-25 12:13

    i feel that the taxi drivers that are driving like animals and dont think that they are responsable for the lives of the poeple they transport. yoh i mean i passed that scene and just a few metres up yhe road i got almost taken of the road. guess by what? A taxi driver. my condolinces to the families of all that children. ill keep you guys in my prayers.

  • Rev. H-Cubed - 2010-08-25 12:14

    When people complain about the reckless disregard for the law displayed by minibus drivers, it is exactly because none of us wants to see a news report like this. My deepest condolences to the families of these young victims.

  • L.Salie - 2010-08-25 12:15

    I can just hope and pray that this tragedy serves as a wake-up call for all reckless drivers on the road; innocent children are paying with their lives.

  • Rochean - 2010-08-25 12:15

    Why do we still allow taxi's to be on the road, they proofed over and over that they don't care about their passengers. Goverment should get their act together and protect our children supply busses for school kids only in various areas

  • Andrew - 2010-08-25 12:17

    & Taxi drivers thought they deserved the sole monopoly on transporting world cup guests. Why should we even give them the time of day when they are so lawless? There are taxi drivers here who drive onto the road verge to get around speed humps. The taxi industry needs better regulation: Qualified drivers and roadworthy taxis and taxi companies that fully contribute to tax like everyone else.

  • Stacey - 2010-08-25 12:17

    The driver needs to be killed really slowly. He had a responsibility to carry those children to school. It is a nightmare - we need to get rid of the taxis

  • Goodwin - 2010-08-25 12:17

    I'm at a loss for words! Cant imagine what those parents are going through. My prayers are with you. They should just build a brigde over the rail track so that such a tragedy never happens again.

  • Rochelle - 2010-08-25 12:19

    I just want to know, does no one educated people about the mechanics of a train. A bus, truck, car, taxi kan apply brakes at realtively any speed and stop. A train can take up to 2 km before it comes to a stop. And why must they make change to the booms?? The people know if the boom is down the train is comming. Now innosent children just starting life has lost there lives because some driver could not wait 5min for a train to pass. I hope we see the law in action on this one.

  • Insauf - 2010-08-25 12:19

    I do not understand why some of these taxi drivers do not realize they are playing with people's lives when they overtake etc and think the road belongs to them. My heart goes out to the families who are left behind with this grief.

  • Mark - 2010-08-25 12:22

    I work in the blackheath Industrial area and commute via Buttskop Road which crosses the level crossing on a daily basis.During the past three years I have contactedt both the City Metro Traffic Department as well as the Railway Commuter Security Services to warn of a pending disaster. The traffic department indicated that this rail intersection was not their jurisdiction and the Metro Rail security advised that it is impossible to mon itor ever level crossing in the city. I have not seen one traffic officer or Railway metro Security at this crossing for mor than a year during peak hour. Taxi's "jump" this intersection at will on a daily basis and during the past I have seen numerous near misses where both Taxi's and vehicles have been involved jumping the intersection. The booms are intentionally damageged by road users jumping the booms on almost a weekly basis. It is tradgic that only once an incident of this magnitude occours that everybody is concerned and a call to action is commanded. To the parents & relatives of the deceased my deepest condolences to the Taxi Driver I can only say you have a lot to answer to and you will need to give account of your actions. I hope this will be a lesson to all who ignore the traffic regulations & to the authorities I hope this is a big enough wakeup call !!!

  • Mother - 2010-08-25 12:27

    nothing to say, don't think there's anything one can say when something like this happens.

  • Robert - 2010-08-25 12:27

    I understand people taking chances when the boom is still coming down, but it takes a special kind of stupid to actually bypass a boom when it is down to cross in front of an oncoming train...

  • ian - 2010-08-25 12:27

    You say taxi!!!.....nuff said.

  • HD - 2010-08-25 12:27

    We now read about a minibus accident every day. If you look at the total disregard these drivers have for the basic road rules, it is not surprising. Just look at taxis passing on the left, turning right from the second lane, passing on solid lines, etc. I'm convinced that minibuses have killed more people since 1994, than the Apartheid regime during the struggle. When will the government start acting against this anarchy? How many more people need to die? This is so unnecessary if the basic road rules are obeyed.

  • Kimberley Lisa Maduray - 2010-08-25 12:29

    All i can say is Jesus have mercy...All the parents, children recovering and everyone else involved, you are in me and my family's prayers...I ask that Jesus would be the comforter in this situation....Amen