Bakkie crash trial to continue

2017-07-13 13:39
Eight children died when the bakkie taking them home from school crashed into this house in Imbali Township in 2015.

Eight children died when the bakkie taking them home from school crashed into this house in Imbali Township in 2015. (File)

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A woman charged with negligently causing the deaths of eight children she was transporting to school in a bakkie, on Wednesday failed to win an early acquittal.

Regional court magistrate Bhekizitha Phoswa dismissed the application brought by Lungile Mthimkhulu (32) saying he did “not want to say too much” about the evidence at this stage.

The case was then postponed to October 5 and 6 for the defence case.

Defence advocate Shane Matthews said they intend calling three witnesses, but did not specify if Mthimkhulu will testify. Mthimkhulu has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of culpable homicide arising from the accident in which Fezokuhle primary school pupils between 7 and 11 years old were killed in Imbali. Other children were injured.

The children were killed when the bakkie driven by Mthimkhulu careered down a steep hill in Imbali on January 28, 2015 and crashed into a house.

In a statement accompanying her not guilty plea, Mthimkhulu alleged the bakkie sped down the hill and failed to take the corner at the bottom because the vehicle experienced “unforeseen mechanical failure of the braking mechanism”.

Shane Matthews said Mthimkhulu claims she tried to apply brakes at the top of the steep hill, and that was when the brakes failed, making it impossible to avoid the accident.

He urged the court to grant Mthimkhulu a discharge on all charges after the state had closed its case, and argued that the state witnesses not only failed to disprove Mthimkhulu’s version, but “in fact confirmed it”.

However in reply, state prosecutor Ricky van Wyk said the opinion of the state’s expert witness — SAPS engineering forensic analyst Captain Tshimologo Mogwera — was that the friction material on the bakkie’s brake pads had become detached from the brake pads due to the “impact” of the collision.

Van Wyk conceded that Mogwera did not carry out specific tests to establish if the defence version — that the brake pads had disintegrated at the top of the hill before the impact — could be true.

However, he said even if this is what did happen, the prosecution maintained that a contributing factor to the crash was the “stress” on the vehicle caused by the fact that the bakkie was transporting 29 children at the time of the accident.

“A reasonable person in these circumstances would have … chosen a different route and not such a steep route,” he said.

Matthews said in response to this that Mthimkhulu was not charged with overloading. “I urge the court not to let the seriousness of the charges play a sub-conscious role,” he said.

Matthews said everyone concerned in the case sympathised greatly with the victims. “But if the evidence shows that the accident was caused by sudden brake failure due to an emergency then the court … must grant a discharge,” he urged.

He argued the prosecution had failed to prove that Mthimkhulu was in any way negligent.

The children who died in
the accident are:

  •         Snakhonke Mchunu (8); 
  •         Owami Mahlaba (10); 
  •         Sinenhlanhla Amanda Nkomo (8);
  •         Yolanda Akhona Shezi (9);
  •         Sinenhlanhla Dlamini (7);
  •         Olwethu Bandile Vilakazi (9); and
  •         Nonzuzo Zuma (11).

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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