A pregnant woman and her unborn baby were among the 13 people who were killed in a multiple-vehicle crash on the New Greytown Road in the KZN midlands on Tuesday morning.
The crash involving a diesel tanker, a taxi travelling from Mpolweni and a bakkie occurred on the R33 (also known as the New Greytown Road) near the Wartburg interchange.
Five people, including the taxi driver and the diesel tanker driver, were injured and were taken to hospitals in Pietermaritzburg.
The accident happened outside KwaChakide farm just before 7 am. According to witnesses, a tipper truck failed to stop at the Wartburg interchange stop sign. This caused the diesel tanker which was en route to Greytown, to lose control and crash into a taxi that was travelling towards Pietermaritzburg. A bakkie was also involved but emergency workers at the scene said the bakkie driver was not injured.
The R33 was closed to traffic for most of the morning and vehicles were redirected via Wartburg.
KZN police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said police were searching for the truck which failed to heed the stop sign.
When The Witness arrived at the scene, distraught people had gathered behind the police tape enquiring about relatives they suspected might have been travelling in the taxi that was now a bloody wreck.
Cebile Zuma, the Ward 10 councillor in Mpolweni, under uMshwathi Local municipality, told The Witness all the passengers in the taxi were from Mpolweni and were travelling to Pietermaritzburg.
“The situation is really bad. Families are here and are demanding to be allowed pass the police tape to identify their relatives, but the police won’t allow it because this is a very gruesome scene. If they see their loved ones in that state they will be scarred for life,” she said.
Zuma said the bodies of those who died were taken to a mortuary in uMshwathi (Wartburg) and family members were allowed to go and identify their loved ones there from 2 pm.
A distraught young woman, who asked not to be named, told The Witness that she wanted to know if her mother was in the mortuary van or had been taken to hospital.
Transport MEC Bheki Ntuli who attended the accident scene said it was devastating, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims.
Ntuli said the accident happened prior to the Road Safety October month which he will be launching at the end of this month.
“According to the accident report, it could be that one person did not obey the rules and that resulted in disturbing a whole lot of people who were also using the road. That then tells me that each and every person who is a road user must obey the instructions and road signs always,” he said.
MEC Ntuli said once all those who died had been formally identified, he will be visiting their families.
Kufakwezwe Masikana, the chairperson of the uMshawathi United Taxi Association, said they were saddened by Tuesday’s accident.
“The people in this taxi were our family members and friends, one of them is my relative.
“When the driver was being pulled out of the wrecked taxi he was crying, not because of the pain he was in, but seeing the people he was transporting lying dead on road. It was a very horrific sight,” he said.
Masikana went on to urge all motorists, especially taxi drivers, to always be vigilant on the road.
“When you’re driving, don’t just focus on your car, also keep a watch at all the vehicles around you,” he said.