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22 Dec 2007 07:47
At least 10 people were killed and more than 20 injured in a collision when a bus ploughed into the trailer of a stationary truck near Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on Saturday morning, paramedics and the provincial road traffic inspectorate (RTI) said.
Shortly before 4am, emergency officials were still trying to free five people trapped in the wreckage.
RTI director John Snell said the bus had ploughed into the second trailer of a truck that had broken down on the N3 near the Estcourt North offramp.
The KwaZulu-Natal provincial emergency medical rescue service reported that of those injured, eight were in a critical condition and another four in a serious condition. Another nine were reported to have suffered minor injuries.
The drivers of both vehicles had survived the accident.
Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said there were an estimated 70 people aboard the bus that was on its way to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.
Snell said the cause of the accident was not immediately known. He said that the truck had apparently pulled off the highway as a result of clutch problems. It was possible that the truck’s second trailer, which was carrying a container, was not totally inside the yellow line when it stopped.
He said the container “peeled the bus like a sardine tin” and those passengers seated on the left-hand side of the bus bore the brunt of the impact.
Accident-reconstruction teams were taking measurements to aid investigations into the cause of the accident.
According to markings on the bus, it belonged to a company called Lux Passenger Service based in Rustenburg.
Southbound lanes on the N3 were closed and light traffic was being diverted along the R103 through the town of Estcourt. Snell said heavy-duty traffic was “being stacked” and being let through piecemeal.
Traffic along the N3 was expected to be backed up for several kilometres as Gauteng holidaymakers start their annual pilgrimage to the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Snell said that shortly after 7am there were 2 000 cars an hour passing through the De Hoek toll plaza near Heidelberg on their way to KwaZulu-Natal.
Last year’s festive season was marred when 12 people were killed and 34 injured on Christmas Eve when an SA Roadlink bus overturned near Pietermaritzburg and slammed into the pillars of a bridge that crossed the N3 south-bound.—Sapa
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