Fiery Karoo truck crash leaves four people dead

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  • Four people were killed when two trucks crashed and burst into flames near Beaufort West. 
  • The crash occurred on the dreaded N1 stretch between Beaufort West and Three Sisters early in the morning. 
  • It was so severe that firefighters and police had to close the road and divert traffic.

Four people were killed when two trucks crashed and burst into flames on the N1 between Beaufort West and Three Sisters early on Wednesday. 

The crash was so severe that traffic had to be rerouted via Aberdeen, Graaff-Reinet and Murraysburg. 

Flames engulfed the vehicles as rescuers tried to work in the extreme heat, but the occupants of the trucks did not survive.

READ | At least 13 people killed in KwaZulu-Natal crash between taxi and truck

Western Cape transport department spokesperson Jandré Bakker said two drivers and two other people, thought to be co-drivers, were killed.

"The acting chief director of Traffic, Farrell Payne, expressed serious concern over that stretch of road," Bakker told News24.

The N1 from Beaufort West in the Karoo is known as a difficult road for drivers with its long, unbroken and monotonous stretches.

Wednesday's crash, shortly after midnight, comes after an accident on Tuesday on the Richmond stretch of the N1, north of Beaufort West. The driver was injured and taken to hospital and some items from the crashed truck were looted.

According to Bakker, the province's traffic authorities are gearing up for their fatigue management programme ahead of the holiday season where the highway becomes very busy with holidaymakers and cargo trucks. In previous programmes, drivers were pulled over and if they seemed tired they were forced to rest.

There was no further information on the identity of those who died on Wednesday. Trucking companies will be contacted to get further details for the department's investigation.  

In the course of investigating, the department will try to establish whether it was due to driver fatigue, speeding, or whether drivers simply pushed to get their load through.

Bakker explained that some companies paid drivers a salary, regardless of how many loads they carried. Others paid them per load. In the latter case, it could lead a driver to push hard to turn around with another load. 

"But that is only speculation. We can only say once we have investigated," he said. 

Western Cape Public Works and Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela said: "It is very disturbing that so many people are losing their lives on the road while I am criss-crossing the province raising awareness during October Transport Month.

"Road safety remains one of my strategic focus areas I have committed for prioritisation to implement during my time in office. This is a huge setback to the province after it recorded a low rate of road fatalities during the 2019 festive season and during the pandemic.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families during this difficult time," he said.

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