Mayhem as truck crashes into mall

2012-01-24 10:48

Pietermaritzburg - Death and mayhem erupted at the Midlands Liberty Mall on Monday night when a speeding truck careered off the highway, smashed through the fence, ploughed over five vehicles and crashed through the wall near the food court entrance.

According to paramedics, one person was crushed to death and three others were injured.

It is believed the woman who died had been walking in the car park when the truck rammed through the fence and across the parking lot.

She was from a prominent Pietermaritzburg family, whose shocked members gathered at the scene.

Path of destruction

A woman, who declined to reveal her name, said she had followed the truck from Howick and noticed it had driven erratically, overtaking, zig-zagging all over the road and driving on the yellow line before it left the N3 at the Chatterton Road circle and ploughed through the fence, cutting a path of destruction across the car park.

The white truck, carrying a load of ironing boards, ended up wedged in the wall of Absa Bank.

The driver and co-driver were removed from the wedged truck, with broken bones.

A shaken teenager, who asked not to be named, said he was waiting outside the entrance to be picked up.

He described how he saw the truck careering off the freeway.

“It was going so fast it was almost like the driver’s foot was stuck on the accelerator.”

The teen said he saw how the truck crushed everything in its path, including vehicles and pedestrians.

The still-shaken young man said he just jumped and ran away.

Trail of debris

Chaotic scenes played out in the mall’s parking lot late on Monday night, with police, the fire brigade and tow truck operators descending on the area.

Police crime scene tape cordoned off the area of devastation and near the wedged truck was the mangled body of the victim covered by silver foil.

Police said they feared that if they removed the truck, the wall could collapse.

A heavy downpour hampered police efforts to comb through the wreckage.

A trail of debris marked the path of the truck through the mall’s car park, with trees and pieces of fence littering the tarmac.

Another traumatised witness, Bhekisisa Kunene, said he was on his way to fetch workers at the mall when the truck roared past him at the traffic circle.

“It never stopped. It just missed my car. It was flying. People screamed as the truck went through the car park, and many ran inside the mall because they could see what was coming. I’m not right in my head now. I called my family.”

A visibly shaken Cassy Fourie, the mall’s manager, described the scene as a “terrible incident”.

“There are people critically injured. The emergency services are doing everything they can to help.”

Bystanders watched, mostly silent, as police and paramedics did their work, blue and red lights flickering.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos.

  • Anthony - 2012-01-24 11:00

    Murder Charge???

      Gideon - 2012-01-24 11:56

      Probably Gross Criminal Negligence and Manslaughter, unless it can be unequivocally proven that it was the driver's intent to kill people. Can still go to the Tjoekie for a veeeeeeery long time.

      procold2 - 2012-01-24 14:38

      correct gideon,maybe there was a problem with the accelerator or the brakes, i seriosly doubt it though i saw how the trucks travel the n3 when i went on holiday in dec.

      Gideon - 2012-01-24 15:04

      @Procol: Yes, there is a likelyhood of substandard maintenance being responsible or playing a role. The eyewitness accounts seem to paint a picture of reckless driving, but nothing's for certain until the case is wrapped up.

      General.AlanMuller - 2012-01-24 20:37

      @Gideon or the Docket dissapears ?

  • wendy.j.viljoen - 2012-01-24 11:09

    this is terrible. My prayers are with the deceased family and hoping all those injured get well soon

  • Paul - 2012-01-24 11:10

    Horrific! I wonder whether the driver fell asleep at the wheel, if the accelerator jammed or if it could have been an attempted break in and theft from the ABSA Bank? Horrible, horrible, horrible. My prayers and thoughts are with the vitims and their families.

      Pam - 2012-01-24 12:26

      This is the legacy of the infamous Town Hill in Pietermaritzburg.

  • sahil.ismail - 2012-01-24 11:16

    Truck drivers on the N3...complete and utter idiots

      Gys - 2012-01-24 11:34

      You are an idiot! Making a statement without the necessary info.

      terri.buhr - 2012-01-24 11:37

      Gys, Sahil is correct - that patch is always a problem with speeding trucks !

      terri.buhr - 2012-01-24 11:38

      Gys, Sahil is correct - that patch is always a problem with speeding trucks !

      Peter - 2012-01-24 11:59

      And don't forget all the construction on the freeway - even narrowing down to one lane....right there

      Samantha - 2012-01-24 12:04

      I totally agree and have even written to the transport minister complaining about the lack of respect these truck drivers have for other drivers and of the speeding; We had a terrifying experience with a truck while driving back up to Jhb from Durbs- the f$%king driver chose to drive right up to the back of our car threatening my hubby and all because we were doing 80 which was the speed limit at the point in the road, He then proceded to go into the right hand lane and drive close to us and hoot loudly, - my 2 young children were terrified and so were we- they are a f$%king menace!!!!

      heinrich.crouse - 2012-01-24 13:24

      Agreed. Get the goods back onto trains and we'll see a drastic reduction of road-deaths and road maintenance costs. Transport minister is a retard.

      Mike - 2012-01-24 14:21

      sahil is 100% correct - truck drivers on the N3 are a law onto themselves. I have been overtaken by a truck in the Midlands doing in excess of 120 km/h - the speed limit there is 80 km/h - on Van Reenen's pass almost crashed into one as the driver decided to do a U-Turn on the pass in fog, Townshill at the area before PMB another hotspot... and where is the police... stopping cars, issuing parking tickets, sleeping on the side of the highway or enjoying an extended lunch somewhere!

      Beverly - 2012-01-24 14:46

      Without trucks how the hell do you think all those nice goodies that you buy on a daily basis fill the shops shelves, by magic you bloody idiot! Think before you post!!!!

      Samantha - 2012-01-24 15:35

      @Beverly, - it is well and good to have trucks on the road, but pls hire drivers who actually follow the road rules, do not harass other drivers and do not think they own the roads- that applies to all drivers but from my experience the trucks are a law onto their own-

      stephenbaum - 2012-01-24 20:26

      @Gys Have you ever driven along the N3 and actually seen how the trucks drive. I have nearly been pushed off the N3 by a really large truck who decided to overtake in the right lane as I was passing by. My best friend was run off the N3 by another truck who didn't care who was passing by. Sure accidents happen, but most of the time they can be avoided by following some simple traffic rules. To the family of the person who died, my condolences.

      Melle - 2012-01-25 08:40

      @Beverley...In the old days we had a train system that worked and the trucks were there just to move stuff short distances. That is why your groceries cost so much, because they've been in at least three or four different trucks before they hit the shelf, each truck owned by someone making a profit, diesel is very expensive, and then there's the tolls and driver's salaries we all pay for. We have FAR too many trucks on the road, with a lot of driver's driving far too many hours in one stretch and falling asleep at the wheel. They get paid per load, and a lot of them are wasting away from HIV (I'm not generalizing, please note: in 1999 alone 56% of them were HIV positive and one of the sypmtoms is tiredness. I can only imagine what the rate is now. Once you slip a gear coming down that PMB Townhill, you've lost it. VIVA TRAINS!

      Beverly - 2012-01-25 16:46

      to all the people that responded to my comment I am assuming you all have impecable driving records, have not overtaken a fully loaded truck and shot in front of it only to suddenly stop. Or have overtaken a truck on the inside of its turning circle and then get annoyed with the driver when he almost drives over you!!!!!! I work in the transport game and have seen the most horrific accident scenes where the truck has actually been the innocent party. Just remember a fully loaded truck cannot stop on a dime like a car, you have to factor in the GVM and the load to realise that it will take longer for a truck to stop. So next time any of you do stop suddely or cut in front of a truck, remember this little fact. We all sit at home these days enjoying life with goods and shackels that are transported daily by trucks, so spare a thought for a driver who has not been home to see his family in weeks, while you all enjoy a braai, beer and stand there condemning an industry where not everyone is the bad guy! I am on the roads of KZN everyday and see first hand how bad we south africans are at driving. There are transporters out there who are doing a good job. I suggest to all these fantastic drivers put your money where your mouth is and take the iPledge currently being promoted by the Imperial Group to show that you are all serious about road safety. I have!!!! My condolences to the family who lost a loved one.

  • Comrade - 2012-01-24 11:20

    Everything is turning into Chaos!! ... utter CHAOS!

      Gideon - 2012-01-24 11:57

      Never a dull moment at the tip of Africa is there?

  • Lynda - 2012-01-24 11:26

    That Townhill has always been a death trap, why put a Mall at the bottom of it.?????

      Syd - 2012-01-24 11:39

      Don't be silly, the truck had already left the N3. Runaways can't get to the Mall unless they make it down the off ramp. The momentum would have been dissipated by the time it got to the Mall. A witness reports that the the truck was still under power. Maybe the accelerator jammed. Who knows until they question the driver and his mate.

      richard.hipkin - 2012-01-24 13:14

      The Mall is not right at the bottom of Town Hill it is quite a distant from there..

      kenneth.roselt - 2012-01-24 13:27

      Syd, if indeed the accelerator was jammed, why did the driver knock it out of gear, and apply brakes? I have had my accelerator jam, and that's what i did.

      Syd - 2012-01-24 17:21

      How the hell would I know? Until they talk to him no one will know for sure. The point is that the notorious Town Hill was not responsible for this one. It was the nut which held the steering wheel.

  • STYLEbudd - 2012-01-24 11:31

    The driver must be brought to book by the chief whip once again eish! This is sad!

  • J-Man - 2012-01-24 11:35

    Sounds almost like a break - failure...

      Syd - 2012-01-24 11:45

      You mean BRAKE?

      Gcwabe-KaMavovo - 2012-01-24 11:51


      Mohamed - 2012-01-24 12:07

      good one. Failure to take a break. .

  • finplanning - 2012-01-24 11:45

    Sounds rather like the Road Traffic Inspectorate don't do their jobs properly. Instead they're more interesting in the ever-lucrative "speed-timing" where a few kms over the speed limit brings in great revenue! The truckers run-amock down Townhill, speeding and illegally overtaking. The RTI police do absolutely nothing about it! I have been first-hand witness to this. Until traffic law enforcement is done effectively by properly trained staff this sort of thing will continue to happen over and over again!

      richard.hipkin - 2012-01-24 13:16

      Rubbish, that stretch is always being targetted. As someone who uses that road extensively there are ALWAYS RTI officers pulling over and inspecting trucks, you speak rubbish.

  • Gcwabe-KaMavovo - 2012-01-24 11:50

    I don't get it. That section of the N3 descending from Hilton down towards PMB is a 3-laner. The left hand lane is designated for trucks, and they may not travel at more than 60Kph. There are spped cameras and cops all over the place. How did this truck veer of this lane, at such a high speed and crash into the mall? I think we should be thankful that it didn't happen during the day during the festive season. The Midlands Mall is always packed during that time and this could've been carnage.

      finplanning - 2012-01-24 11:58

      Except they don't stick to the lane! They far exceed the speed limit of 60km/h and then from the arrestor bed at the top of the hill they are supposed to come down in the crawler gear - many are too impatient and also overtake the slower trucks, and no RTI to stop them. Later they find they have no brakes near the bottom where the Mall is. The only sadness is that the driver didn't take himself and his "passenger" out! It's about time truck owners were brought to book and billed for the accidents by their drivers. The N3 is a nightmare with trucks, sometimes overtaking 3 deep!

      Gcwabe-KaMavovo - 2012-01-24 12:06

      I think they should make one more arrestor bed on this lane.

      Samantha - 2012-01-24 12:07

      from a terrible experience i can tell you first hand that these trucks DO NOT keep to the left and and the speed limit, most of them are driving at 120/140- with little or no regard for other drivers, pulling out in front of them without thought and also driving side by side so that all the lanes are blocked to other traffic-

  • Peter - 2012-01-24 11:57

    Wow it doesnt Only happen in movies.!!

  • frans.grobler3 - 2012-01-24 12:24

    Lucky pack license!!!!!!!!!

  • annieluvsmark - 2012-01-24 12:33

    Damn truck owners, they just cann't service their vehicles. Manslaughter

      Syd - 2012-01-24 17:25

      And you know this how? Maybe the driver was sick, drugged or drunk - we don't know yet why it happened so speculation is pointless.

  • Megan - 2012-01-24 13:00

    How awful. Thoughts go out to the woman's family and those who witnessed the horrible incident. Something has to be done about the number of trucks and poor drivers on the road!

  • Nasiefa - 2012-01-24 13:05

    was the truck driver drunk ? did he fall asleep behind the wheel ? WTF ?

      richard.hipkin - 2012-01-24 13:17

      Why you asking us??

      Syd - 2012-01-24 17:26

      POintblank - rhetorical question methinks - if you know what that means.

  • Sechaba - 2012-01-24 13:20

    ke boloi kaofela, the driver was not alone, o tsamaiswa le tladi mothwana... someone who can translate this please translate to fellow bloggers who might not understand my statement

      Peter - 2012-01-24 13:30

      Well Sechaba, Witchcraft or tokolosh are certainly mean in KZN, to have to kill a woman, who had nothing to do with the driver . If, as you say, he was "possessed", then was it because he enjoyed his weed too much

  • Andries - 2012-01-24 13:44

    Maybe the driver had some sort of epileptic fit behind the wheel?

  • ntombiya - 2012-01-24 13:48

    SPOORNET / TRANSNET , Catch a wakeup, no business sense and fat salaries for doing what ... bring rail wagons back into service and employ competant management and staff, this is why tons of cargo move from jhb to Durb by road transport !!! Believe me the transporters are smiling all the way ! If I could I would use rail in a heartbeat, it was cheaper than road ! However those days are gone until they wake up and smell the roses !!!!!!

      Schmee - 2012-01-25 07:38

      You are absolutely right Ntombiya. I wish they would catch a wake-up. We spend millions on road hauliers only because Spoornet can't get their act together.

  • Kevin - 2012-01-24 13:58

    WHere were the RTI during this. On Friday, I drove both up and down Town Hill. The weather was good and there must have been at least five patrol cars pulled off in the shade under trees with their drivers lolling about in them. I drove the same route on Sunday when the weather was inclement and not a sign of a single patrol vehicle. It seems they only come out in good weather !!! SO, IF YOU WANT TO BE RECKLESS, DO IT IN THE WET.... THE COPS WILL BE SNUG IN THEIR BEDS OR IN THEIR OVERHEATED OFFICES.

  • Kevin - 2012-01-24 14:03

    AND FURTHER MY PREVIOUS COMMENT. An articulated vehicle passed me coming down Town Hill on Sunday afternoon in the rain. I was in the middle lane and doing the speed limit of 80 kph. I thought I was looking for parking and as he pulled away he was changing lanes willy nilly to avoid the slower traffic. AND NOT A COP IN SIGHT TO APPREHEND A POTENTIAL DEATH BOMB

  • Sandy - 2012-01-24 16:02

    These truck driver;s think they own this road, amazing the police are no where to be seen in incidents like these. Condolences to the family on your horrific loss

  • tezgupz - 2012-01-24 16:29

    there are three forms of intent and one of them is the reasonable person test... would a reasonable person have foreseen the possibility that driving in such a manner could have caused the death of several people...its called dolus eventualis and depending on how he was driving, he could be found guilty of murder.... just a thought, could be wrong...

  • andrew.arnesen - 2012-01-24 17:41

    I highly doubt that both the driver and the co-driver had a death wish... We need more information but it is much more likely to be a mechanical malfunction.

  • G.Lightdancer - 2012-01-24 22:25

    when will the killing stop...Mr. president...when will you take control...what is happening in our country is a disgrace...

  • Schmee - 2012-01-25 07:31

    Townhill has become an absolute nightmare with truck drivers that have very little regard for road rules. Not a cop in sight to stop this behaviour. Well I guess at least now for the next six months we might see some cops on that stretch of road again. Funny how something like this has to happen before they wake up.

      ntombiya - 2012-01-25 11:52

      Ja its a bad stretch of road, they should be driving down in the lowest geat however, do they do thant nooooo !

  • Kevin - 2012-01-25 07:32

    A law unto themselves...much like the ANC who bred civil disobedience, resistance, and vowed to make the townships ungovernable...once the seeds of this have permeated throughout society, you have a tiger by the tail..this kind of tragedy is likely to be happen again and again for some time to come...

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