Truck driver 'was taking chances' in Kroonstad crash - transport minister

2018-01-04 16:50
(Image via Twitter)

(Image via Twitter)

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Bloemfontein – The truck driver, who collided with a train in a deadly crash near Kroonstad on Thursday morning  in which at least 18 people died, "was taking chances", Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said on Thursday afternoon. 

"He thought he was going to pass through," Maswanganyi said at a briefing held at the accident scene, which was broadcast by eNCA.

"Little did he know that the train was going to hit him, [which] has cost many lives." 

Maswanganyi, who was attending the funeral of a former Free State department of transport head in the area, rushed to the scene after the accident. 

Eighteen people have been confirmed dead and 268 people were injured. However, Maswanganyi added that the number was expected to increase.

"We don't know, after we have completed our investigation, as to how many fatalities [we would] have discovered," Maswanganyi said. 

He said the identities of the deceased would be released later.

"We also want to [send] a message of condolence to the families of the deceased. We can't, for now, confirm as to who those passengers [are]."

Also read: Death toll in Free State train crash rises to 12, rescuers search for more bodies

Maswanganyi said the injured were being treated at hospitals in Welkom, Virginia and Kroonstad. 

Out of the injured, four people were in a critical condition. 

He said the passengers, who had not been admitted to hospitals, had been taken to Johannesburg - the train's final destination - by bus. 

"We want to [send] a message of gratitude to the business people around here who have come to provide food, water and other services to our passengers," Maswanganyi added. 

"We also want to [send] a message of gratitude to local people who have come to assist our medical staff, our police services [and] traffic officials to rescue passengers who were in those coaches.

"We are quite happy about what our people have done so far."

The United National Transport Union's (UNTU) general secretary  Steve Harris condemned the reckless act.

"The train driver would never have been able to continue with the train on a tar road. So irrespective of what the investigation of the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) will indicate as a cause, we can state for a fact that the railway crossing was ignored," he said in a statement.

He said this was something that happened daily, at all railway crossings across the county.

"Drivers are simply not cautious that a train might be approaching."

"By the time the driver sees a vehicle obstructing the railway line and starts applying with its emergency brake application, it will only be able to come to a complete standstill in between 500m and 1 kilometre.

"There is no way that the train driver will be able to prevent a coalition," Harris said. 

Read more on:    joe maswanganyi  |  johannesburg  |  accidents

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