Truck driver convicted for 24 deaths

2013-11-12 17:48

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Mbombela - The driver whose truck collided with a goods train, killing 24 farm workers, has been found guilty of culpable homicide, a Sapa correspondent reported on Tuesday.

George Mandlazi, 33, appeared in the Nelspruit Circuit of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria where he explained that while he pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of murder and 23 of attempted murder, he pleaded guilty to 24 counts of culpable homicide and one of negligent driving.

"I was driving the truck on 13 July [2012], I didn’t stop at the crossing, I didn’t see the train or try looking.

"When I was already crossing I heard a hoot and the accident happened, which led to the deaths and injuries, for which I’m very sorry," his lawyer Melanie Erasmus read from her client’s plea statement.

Mandlazi, who sat quietly in court with his mother, wept as Erasmus read out the statement. When asked if he agreed with the statement, he sobbed and said "I agree".

The State accepted the plea and withdrew the murder and attempted murder charges, leading Judge Nomsa Khumalo to find him guilty on the lesser charges.

"The accused has been found guilty on 24 counts of culpable homicide and the court further finds you guilty of driving negligently on a public road," Khumalo said.

His R3 000 bail was extended until Wednesday, when the court would hear sentencing arguments.

Mandlazi was arrested on 13 July 2012, after the truck he was driving collided with a goods train going from Emalahleni to Maputo, Mozambique.

The truck was ferrying 47 seasonal farm workers between Malelane and Hectorspruit when the accident happened at a level crossing.

Nineteen people were killed on the scene. Five others died on their way to hospitals.

Another 23 people were injured.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  accidents

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