‘Bakkie was speeding’

2017-05-16 14:01
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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The defence and state agree that the reason a bakkie crashed killing eight Imbali schoolchildren in 2015 was that it was travelling too fast to take a sharp corner and veered out of control.

The dispute between the two sides revolves around why it was travelling at such a high speed in the first place, and whether or not the driver — Lungile Mthimkhulu (32) — was in any way negligent.

The defence says the reason the bakkie was travelling so fast and failed to negotiate the corner was because the vehicle experienced “unforeseen mechanical failure of the braking mechanism” and Mthimkhulu could not apply brakes.

Under cross examination on Monday, Warrant Officer Gary Ireland of the SAPS accident unit, who took photographs at the scene of the incident, confirmed that while there were “yaw” marks on the road indicating the bakkie skidded sideways, there were no actual brake marks on the road.

Asked by defence advocate Shane Matthews to explain the difference between “yaw” and brake marks, he confirmed that yaw marks are caused by the tyres slipping sideways, while brake marks — caused when a motorist applies brakes sharply — leave a tyre pattern on the road surface in a straight line.

“The accused [Mthimkhulu] agrees that the accident was caused because when the bakkie got to the bottom of the hill there is a sharp bend and the vehicle was going too fast to take the corner. The reason it was going fast is the issue here. The accused says it was because of brake failure.

“The alternative would be that she did not brake at all and just failed to take the corner,” said Matthews.

Ireland agreed that if Mthimkhulu had applied brakes he would have expected to find brake marks on the road.

According to Ireland’s findings at the scene the Toyota Hilux bakkie, transporting 28 schoolchildren from Fezo­kuhle Primary School had come to rest at the bottom of a steep 121-metre downhill slope inside a house.

There were yaw marks left on the tar surface of the road when the driver tried to go round the right-hand corner and the bakkie rotated clockwise.

An upright gate pillar was broken off when the bakkie collided with it before crashing into the house.

Mthimkhulu is facing eight charges of culpable homicide for allegedly negligently causing the deaths of eight of the pupils who were in the bakkie on January 28, 2015.

The children who died were between seven and 11 years old.

In a statement explaining her not guilty plea she said brake failure caused the crash and not any negligence on her part.

According to evidence led on a previous occasion by SAPS engineering forensic analyst Captain Tshimologo Mogwera (who examined the brake lining components on the vehicle) he had found the brake pad linings on the brake pads to have “completely disintegrated” at the time of his inspection.

In his opinion this damage had happened “in an instant”, and there were no signs of preliminary fatigue or damage prior to the accident happening. He believed the damage occurred on impact, he said.

However, Matthews suggested in cross examination that it happened when Mthimkhulu tried to apply brakes.

He said according to her version she had heard a snapping sound and the brake pedal stayed down.

Aside from the culpable homicide charges, Mthimkhulu faces alternative counts of reckless and negligent driving or driving without consideration for other road users.

She has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The children who died in the accident are: Snakhonke Mchunu (8), Owami Mahlaba (10) Sinenhlanhla Amanda Nkomo (8) Yolanda Akhona Shezi (9), Sinetemba Nonkululeko Chonco (7), Sinenhlanhla Dlamini (7), Olwethu Bandile Vilakazi (9) and Nonzuzo Zuma (11).

The case will continue on Tuesday when the court intends to conduct an inspection in loco at the crash site.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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