Truck driver tells of mall crash terror

2012-01-27 10:40

Pietermaritzburg - The driver of a truck which lost its brakes and crashed into the Liberty Midlands Mall on Monday night, killing a woman, has spoken from his hospital bed about the tragic accident.

“No one deserves to die the way that lady died,” said Thabiso Motseko.

Alice Jogessar, 69, of Pietermaritzburg, died instantly when the truck veered off a road parallel to the N3, careered across the mall’s parking lot and crashed through the wall of Absa Bank.

“I remember knocking into trees,” he said.

“The windscreen cracked.

“I couldn’t see anything and the next thing the truck was full of bricks.”

Clutch, brakes failed

Motseko said the truck’s clutch failed outside Estcourt and the brakes failed before Pietermaritzburg, on a long journey fraught with mechanical problems.

He and his co-driver, Teboho Motoboli, set off from Gauteng on Thursday last week with a load of ironing boards destined for Durban supermarkets.

They first travelled to Bethlehem. At around noon on Friday, near Harrismith, the truck began to have problems.

“The clutch was stuck. We had to stand on the side and call our boss and she then called the mechanics,” said Motseko.

At 16:00 a mechanic arrived. He managed to drive the truck to a nearby garage and parked it there from Friday afternoon to Sunday, he said.

“The mechanic kept on saying he was coming but stood us up and only arrived Monday morning,” said Motseko.

“We slept in a truck at the garage for those days.”

The mechanic spent all Monday working on the truck, which was finally fixed by 18:00, he said.

“He then said it was fine. We drove off.”

'I thought we were going to die'

However, when Motseko and Motoboli were passing Estcourt, the clutch started to screech.

“I kept on driving, driving and driving.”

Then the brakes failed as they approached Pietermaritzburg, passing a stream of heavy vehicles, Motseko recalled.

“The red lights flashed. There were no brakes. No clutch. The handbrake was jammed. I touched the brakes again, and again there was nothing.”

At the same time he changed lanes, trying to make sure that his vehicle didn’t hit any other trucks, he said.

Motseko took the Chatterton Road off-ramp at a high speed, moving on to Sanctuary Road before crashing through a fence into the parking lot.

“The truck was sliding. I said to my assistant, ‘Motoboli, it’s finished’.

“I thought we were going to die because of how the truck was speeding.

“But I kept on holding on to the steering wheel because I was scared of the damage the truck would create if it had lost control.”

He said he didn’t even see Jogessar during the crash.

“It was bad luck. I didn’t mean to kill her,” Motseko said.

“I’m sorry that she passed away.

“I lost control and I didn’t even see her. I feel guilty because I know how precious life is. No one deserves to die the way that lady died.”

Grateful to be alive

He told The Witness he was grateful to be alive; he was not badly hurt and had twisted his neck, leg and right hand.

Both men were discharged from Netcare St Anne’s Hospital on Thursday.

Motseko went on: “I think mechanics must make sure that when they do something they do it right.

“He just said the truck was fine and ready.

“I read the newspaper and people say my foot must have been resting on the accelerator, but that’s not true,” said Motseko.

He said he had not received any counselling.

Co-driver Motoboli, who was in hospital for his 31st birthday on Wednesday, said he did not think they were going to survive.

The two said they were glad to be going back home to Johannesburg. They left by bus on Thursday afternoon.

“I just want to rest and go to see my father in Rustenburg,” Motseko added.

Police said they were still continuing their investigation. Once completed the docket would be forwarded to the provincial director of prosecutions for a decision.


Meanwhile, family, colleagues and friends of Jogessar, a former teacher and Child Welfare director, attended her funeral in Raisethorpe on Thursday. Among the mourners was her friend Reen Mohammed, who was the last to see her alive after a girls’ night out at the mall on Monday.

The pair had dinner and then ice-cream, on the eve of Mohammed’s return to Egypt. Instead of returning on Tuesday, she delayed her flight to attend the funeral of her friend.

  • Paul - 2012-01-27 10:53


  • Ronald - 2012-01-27 10:53

    A tragic accident, a remorseful person who seems sincerely sad for the loss of life.

      karen.glautier - 2012-01-27 12:23

      So sad that he has to live with this. He obviously didn't intend for it to happen. I wonder if the state can pursue the mechanic? The truck should not have been on the road if it wasn't properly fixed. That is manslaughter.

  • Sechaba - 2012-01-27 10:56

    this is a sad story indeed

  • wnkambule - 2012-01-27 10:58

    Sad story!

  • brigitte.murray - 2012-01-27 10:59

    Very sad, the owner of the truck company should be held accountable. So many trucks on South African roads that are not in a road worth condition.

      General.AlanMuller - 2012-01-27 11:10

      yes and no... the company owner got a mechanic out to fix the truck ... this mechanic certified the truck good to go...In the Past I bought a Brand new truck from a very big international Brand and had issues with it.. it was returned numerous times everytime I was assured it was rectified... and this a truck @ under 100000km... so maybe Mechanics and maintenance facilities should be looked into ? However and whoever to blame it was a sad outcome....

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 12:48

      No, Brigitte. With what was revealed to us, one can't blame the owner. If you mend that they have to be responsible for costs due to the incident, I agree and I am sure there insurance should cover it. Legally, if action gets taken, they should rather look at what action the driver took and was he negligent by ignoring the noises.(If you are Brigitte Murray that's in law, you should know this. ;) ) Please read my comment under Leon.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 14:26

      Mechanics are often the problem. After my wifes car was serviced her wheel came off. The mechanic said someone must have tried to steal it, thats why it was loose. Luckily she managed to control the car. I have had several bad experiences with mechanics, a lot of them seem to be very "sl@pgat". I've even had a spare tyre stolen by them!

  • andrew.arde - 2012-01-27 11:01

    The clutch stopped working in Estcourt??? Hello......stop the truck!! You cannot negotiate downhills in a truck without full use of your gearbox.

      Gcwabe-KaMavovo - 2012-01-27 11:06

      Yep. Estcourt is what, 40-50 KM from PMB? He took a risk in carrying on driving, and it ended in tragedy. I think both him, his boss and the incompetent mechanic should bear the brunt.

      winston.mullany - 2012-01-27 11:33

      As much as a sad story, I happen to agree. No matter what happens, if your tools don't work properly, you won't do the job. Same as a vehicle, if the clutch started screeching then somethings wrong. If he had stopped and reported the issue again, then this would not have happened. But he decided to drive and drive and drive. So unfortunately he is responsible for his well being, his vehicle and other users as well as pedestrians.

      letwice - 2012-01-27 11:41

      This is pure speculation. But given how the guy seems to take responsibility for this. I tend to believe that maybe they called the boss when it happened again and she told them to keep going. They may have left that out of their story out of fear of losing their jobs.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 14:29

      Ja, a truck needs to be kept slow using your gears, and the exhaust brake. If only the brakes are used they get too hot and fail - due to the weight involved. No clutch equals no control, I've lived through a bus accident involving failed brakes due to a bad driver, it was only luck none of us died.

  • Bongani - 2012-01-27 11:01

    Sad news. i know first hand how owners push margins at the expense of lives. people always insult us taxi drivers for driving old cars, but what choice do we have. A boss is driving a Benz that is serviced on regular bases, but my Taxi is not allowed to stop for a day, if i take it for a service, then there is no pay for me that week. This is the same thing with truck drivers, the owner did not even arrange accomodation for these guys while they were waiting for this mechanic, not fair.

      elaine.swart - 2012-01-27 11:42

      Very true. I have seen this myself in the transport industry. It's time people realise it's not always the driver's fault.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 14:33

      Bongani, we moan about the way you guys drive - most taxis these days are in pretty good nick I'd say. But ja, I believe you about the bosses, decisions revolve around max profit no matter the cost, even if its a life.

  • Gcwabe-KaMavovo - 2012-01-27 11:04

    Why did he keep on driving when the clutch started to screech?

  • Bongani - 2012-01-27 11:17

    Gcwabe to stop a truck you need to change gears down, how was he going to stop if cluch was not working. There is a big difference between car and truck

      Gcwabe-KaMavovo - 2012-01-27 11:39

      So you can't knock it off gear (into neutral) and use the brakes? I'm asking out of ignorance here.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 13:12

      Bogani it is not easy, but if you can not change gears your clutch is the last thing you must use. Trucks have retarder and Jacobs brakes on it. We are not even talking of your trailer brakes or emergency ones. If he was not to fast he could have applied Jacobs or...,that strain the engine and than when slow, change gears without using his clutch. He could have also use his Jacobs or... ,while slowly applying trailer brakes. This all is so very complicated to explain and neither will I say what he should have done. This is a difficult position to be in and circumstances change everything. What we should remember is that he is the responsible one that decide if he can continue driving. No boss or any-one have a right above a driver when he feel it is unsafe. That is written in stone. We also need to ask why he pass other when hearing noises. Remember he was also driving in a downhill area. He sound like a nice and open driver and I therefore will refrain from blaming, but what I said is basic information in our industry.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 14:40

      Gcwabe, in neutral the brakes have to do all the work, they are not designed for that. DuToit seems to know the most, I used to drive a Samil 100 in the army, we used our gears and exhaust brake on long descents. If in the wrong gear it was quite difficult to change gears sometimes, so you had to choose a low gear and stay in it all the way down long steep hills. I did not even know about a Jacobs brake - are they new or just in bigger trucks, or was I just poorly trained DuToit?

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 16:56

      Hi Peter. Sorry for late response. They are long time in the industry. You have heard before a truck make a big deap sound like Burr, bur-bur, burrr. Well you should know that sound from childhood. That is Jacobs and A driver should not use them in town to brake or gear of, but they are lazy or know it sound nice and pull attention. Also not at slow speed. It strain the motor at it's weekest pont when revs is down. Retarders is the newer one, but is already there for a while. They only have now more levels(like 1 to 6) than before. Some of your smaller trucks also have them in. Like in the old days with your Isuzu JCR or NPR and other. They had something like a brake drum wrap around the prop-shaft. Ha. ha, ha! Yip remember the old bugger. Went into the army with my code 11. They are dinosaurs, but....good ones. Was better than the International Dymant T that you have to know how far you were from the town to start gearing off.LOL!

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 16:58

      Old code 11. Now 14.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 18:00

      Thanks du Toit, so the Jacobs brake is what we used to call an exhaust brake. Ja, they sounded pretty cool driving through town - brrr, brrr, brrr! We used to use them before we changed down a gear in combo with the normal brakes, at pretty low speed as well, so we were not that well trained it seems...

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 18:15

      Jacobs was one of the original makes. You google something. You use your Jacobs. Same idea. ...and with the birr the people look and hopefully girls as

  • Andrea - 2012-01-27 11:22

    it goes to show how companies cut costs. those of us driving the N1 between jo'burg and Pretoria see some very funny vehicles, and I must say I am scared to have one of them come up behind me. They are mostly unroadworthy. It is unacceptable that this is still allowed to happen. surely there are regulations about the roadworthiness of especially heavy vehicles? no wonder so many people are killed every day. The transporters are going to have to start taking responsibility for this.

  • lindadt - 2012-01-27 11:25

    The owner of the truck and mechanic should be liable.

  • lindadt - 2012-01-27 11:36

    The drivers were probably very tired after having to sleep in the truck while it was repaired and not as alert as they wouldve been otherwise.

  • Genesistt - 2012-01-27 11:40

    Those poor men. To go through something so horrific. I feel so bad for them.

  • Janice - 2012-01-27 11:45

    Shame, he sounds so sorry. What an awful thing to happen to any driver.

  • Rainbow - 2012-01-27 11:54

    Since companies have opted for trucks to transport their good instead of rail like int he good old days our roads have deterioated, road accidents has increased and the roads have become conjested and dangerous. All most all accidents on the road involve a truck or taxi and or both. The railways need to up their game to give companies a faster more inexpensive option.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 13:24

      True, but there are good reasons for companies using road transport. Door to door delivery.(less handling of product and time) Incompetent rail as well as no functional sidelines anymore. Less stock to carry thus less overhead cost thus cheaper on customer's pocket. What will help if railway start concentration purely on mass amount of goods to be transported and when/if successful that extend to more smaller loads. Unfortunately they can't get it completely right and sometimes they try to do these smaller loads, wasting money, while they neglecting the bulk loads.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 14:42

      Especially coal - many of our roads have been completely destroyed by coal trucks, amazing this was allowed to happen. Must have cost the country billions by now.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 17:00

      There was a time that we could have exported 3 to more times chrome with the orders placed, but railways could not do it.

  • Heidi - 2012-01-27 12:08

    One of the problems is that the traffic authorities generally dont check vehicles for roadworthy along our roads.They seem more concerned with speed traps,so as long as you stick to the speed limits you can get away with almost anything.When last were you stopped along the road to check the roadworty condition of your vehicle.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 14:44

      They are very strict on overloading though. I know the owner of a transport company, he regularly gets fined for overloading. It also entails having a balanced load. And before you slate the guy, its not that easy. A pallet of farm produce does not always weigh the same, and smaller transporters cannot afford to weigh the load - so they guess.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 17:06

      ...and our clients declare the wrong weights. You do not want to overload because it cost money. The trucks that are the most overweight are those that carry the bulk loads that railway should do. They get paid per ton and it is nearly railway rates. Plenty of them have a most weight to it and if a few % higher than normal you have a problem. Drivers cant see that with there eyes.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 17:39

      A "moist" weight.

  • Kevin - 2012-01-27 12:33

    “I just want to rest and go to see my father AND HIS ANCESTORS in Rustenburg,” Motseko added.. CAN you now see how these ouks think! I Scream Culpable homicide. I agree Gcwabe-KaMavovo, driving and driving a faulty truck for 40-50km is questionable. The buc stops at the driver of that vehicle or as vavi says: wie-hi-curl. Get rid of the flies and mosquitoes on the roads.

      resend - 2012-01-27 13:13

      its like you don,t have ancestors ,you seem to think like a child who has been fathered by a homeless father who did,nt teach you manners and that shows even on your comment you need to start search for your father to teach you manners.your sycophantic and lonely in your heart .respect life.

      jcadman3 - 2012-01-27 13:35

      Um Kevin ... Where and how do you get "AND HIS ANCESTORS" from?? his father obviously lives in Rustenburg and thats where he considers home... is that not where you would want to go if you had just been through something horrific ? to family to recover?? and what on earth does his saying that have to do with his driving skills anyways ??

  • resend - 2012-01-27 13:00

    Only person to be pursued is the lady boss who don,t care about her logistics but money on the bank once the truck starts to give problem one has to take out of the long distance and buy new ones because now the good didnt reach to the clients,she must make sure she pays for all the damage done,she knew about the faulty within the truck and insist to go .

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 13:43

      Talk to us again when you have more than 25 yrs experience in the industry, but for now do not talk nonsense. I have and you are not making sense. We have to comment on info available, but with what the driver said it is clear that simple basic procedures were ignored. The insurance should cover all expenses. Remember to pay a few rand more out of free will at the till and indicate that it is for the transporter. We would like to buy new trucks, but due to being a throat-cut industry we can't and when we do, we have to take the new truck back for repairs. Maybe the assembly plant workers should think what they do when putting it together and stop keeping an eye on the clock and the unions. Always the bosses's fault.

  • Kevin - 2012-01-27 14:07

    resend, it is common sence to read and see who the shoe fits. HY GAAN OM TE BACHA! This was a horrific experience for both of them simply by not using common sence but it clearly shows from their own testimony their inexperience to think out of the box, buddy. DUTOIT COETZEE IS SPOT ON. YOU CANNOT CONTINUE WHILE CONSIOUS OF THE FACT THAT THE VEHICLE IF FAULTY AND THAT FOR 40-50KM!

  • jjlambrechts - 2012-01-27 14:16

    The people that have knowledge on trucks, please help me out.. What about exhaust breaking?! Or is the only purpose of that to marginally reduce speed?

      Peter - 2012-01-27 14:49

      Marginally reduce speed, only effective when you're going quite slowly and in a low enough gear that the compression of the engine is also slowing you down. Have you seen how slowly big trucks go down long steep hills - once they bolt there is not much stopping them, I'm not sure how well those arrestor beds are - maybe duToit can help out there.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 17:15

      Your 1st 25% of braking starts mainly with the horse. Then your trailer gradually becomes more. If the trailer took the initial braking you will burn your brakes and your s-locks/levers can get stuck in locking position. The horse gets help with the engine brake to take the strain of the pushing weight off from the drums. If the trailer brakes kick in to late the trailer will push the horse and eventually pass the trailer and flip. Jack-knife!.

      Peter - 2012-01-27 18:09

      Basically driving a big truck is not a mickey mouse affair. I've never driven a horse and trailer, I think getting a code 14 you need to know a hell of a lot more than a normal drivers licence. And a good driver will need time to develop his skills, hence we'll get a couple of dangerous okes driving on the road. I guess a doctor needs to hone his skills as well, imagine being the patient on his learning curve! Just proves that once on the road anything can happen to you, you could encounter a truck like this one bearing down on you with nowhere to escape - a scary thought.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 18:23

      To your best drivers it becomes a way of living. Unfortunately, but that is what it does. You can listen to them some nights, sending each other messages on Siele op Wiele, RSG. To some it may sound common, but that is not. It is another world on its own. A lot of our radio stations's info, on conditions, weather and traffic gets phoned in by these people to make life easier for us as normal motorist.

  • Cindy - 2012-01-27 14:17

    The owner, mechanic and driver should be charged. Whilst agree that the driver expresses remorse, he chose to drive from Estcourt knowing that the truck was mechanically unsound.

      Mfudzi - 2012-01-27 17:48

      its not the driver's fault if it is establihed that the mechanical fault had not been repaired properly. lets feel for the driver if his explanation is confirmed.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 18:28

      I agree with you Mfudzi, but if he heard noises he should have stopped and therefore will help carry the blame. He even overtook while hearing something does not sound right. Yes, lets rather wait to here the full story.

  • ReunionofIntelligentMinds - 2012-01-27 14:37

    The mechanic probably used the 'spoeg en plak' method. I hope the police does a proper investigation and tests the brakes and the owner gets a proper private forensic investigator to assess whether negligence from the mechanic side was the cause of accident.

  • nerasmus1 - 2012-01-27 14:42

    Hell, I would've jumped out of the truck the minute I realised it was a coaster. Even though there are many theories of what he should and should not have done, by simply trying to keep control of the truck a much bigger tradegy was avoided. My sympathies go out to the family and friends of Ms. Jogessar. But please guys, cut Thabiso some slack. He seems sincerely sorry about this which is more than I can say of some drunk drivers and other road hogs that killed scores over the festive period.

  • Caleb - 2012-01-27 15:03

    Before the Driver had his chance to state his case, many on this forum were persecuting the guy. It's a great lesson to us all that unless we are 100% of the facts at hand, we should reserve judgement. Judge not, lest he be judged.

  • Hayley - 2012-01-27 15:21

    EVERYDAY there are deaths involving truck accidents!! HELLO does no one see the obvious.... ALL trucks should be pulled off the road, have extensive road worthy tests and the drivers drilled until they are expert drivers and this should be done on a continuous basis. There is no accountability from either the drivers or truck owners and us pedestrians and motor vehicles are defenseless against these giants

  • Buhlebuyeza - 2012-01-27 15:36

    Life is lost shame may she rest in peace, the guys were very lucky to survive this.

  • Heinrich - 2012-01-27 17:33

    No sympathy from me. Many more people could have been killed. The buck stops at the minister, who does nothing to promote road safety. This is a very clear case of vehicle abuse, lack of proper driver training, lack of quality control and managerial apathy. These are the things that the authorities should be focussing on but no...speed traps are too lucrative. There should be a high level and intensive investigation into this matter, and remedial action should be taken. Lessons learnt from this should be communicated to the whole industry and preventive systems applied. There is no such thing as "bad luck". If one small aircraft falls out of the sky, even if there are no fatalities, the incident is investigated properly. Why not road incidents, where so many more people are exposed to risk?

  • Mfudzi - 2012-01-27 17:40

    if investigations determine that brakes and clutch were indeed faulty, then the owner of truck should be held responsible. heartfelt condolences to family of deceased.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 17:56

      I agree with you, but then it must not be based on how it burned and were worn down now because of the accident. The responsibility is always with the owner because it is his property. It will be good if all aspects can be investigated. Driver's behavior, quality parts and repairs made. I must say the driver did not followed procedures to the teeth. Neither do you always have control on a re-occurrence of a brake-down. Bad news is that SA do not have enough good investigators when it come to mechanical or driver failure. The driver usually becomes one of your best drivers after an incident like this. Just a pity a life was lost.

      Heinrich - 2012-01-27 18:33

      Correct,Du Toit. What is shocking though, is that the driver apparently did not know how the braking system works; the difference between static and dynamic friction, and he did not appreciate the extent of total energy of his rig. These are all driver training elements. Drivers are generally also an abused group. They will be put on the road with minimal training and then worked long hours with little rest. A sure recipe for disaster. Mfusdzi, yes. But it goes much deeper and much wider than that. Systems must be in place, and enforced, to prevent incidents like this.

  • billxhosa - 2012-01-28 00:22

    In this instance I will say kudos to the driver for sticking with the truck and minimizing the death toll. It is tragic that someone died and my condolences to the family but it could have been far worse. Just look at any taxi accident. Normally I would want the driver jailed. In a developed country he would either be a owner/operator and therefore responsible for the operation and maintenance of the vehicle or he would be a driver for a company truck. In this case it would still be his duty to report and not operate a defective vehicle. But this is South Africa where my guess is his choice is either drive the piece of crap the company supplies and feed himself and his family or become unemployed. This is why I hope either the mechanic or company is held responsible. But again this is South Africa so I have a feeling the poor lady's family will never see any compensation or justice.

  • Sandy - 2012-01-28 08:16

    I honestly believe the truck driver is sincere, if he hadn't done what he did coming down the hill, it could have been alot more serious

  • Clive - 2012-01-28 14:03

    The driver was aware the truck was unroadworthy at Estcourt,Why did he not stop then.How did he manage to stop at the Mooi River toll and change gears to carry on along the dangerous stretch of N3 to Howick including Mc Kenzie hill, down to Tweedie / Howick.If what is printed in the Witness is 100% correct the fault lies with the driver and the owners.Common sense and roadcraft knowledge could have prevented this tragedy.How often do we read after tragic accidents accounts of passengers remarking that "the driver was having problems with the gears the brakes etc".

      Ram - 2012-02-09 08:50

      Hi Clive , I agree with your comments.i am a truck driver in U.S.A. This driver was under the influence of druga If he had no brakes , how did he get to P.M.B. this driver should be indicted for homicide in the first degree

  • Ram - 2012-02-09 08:42

    Sorry , My sympathy to the family of Joggersar . diot , stupid , should not drive a truck they are danger to the community

  • Alan - 2012-02-09 14:47

    The mechanic should be put behind bars!!

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