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03 Mar 2008 17:22
Four accidents on Monday claimed the lives of 31 people in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), prompting the province’s premier to declare this coming Thursday a day of mourning.
KwaZulu-Natal health spokesperson Leon Mbangwa said a collision between a coal truck and a minibus taxi near Dundee claimed the lives of 15 people, while another 12 people were killed on the outskirts of Durban near Shongweni when a bakkie carrying workers lost control and ploughed into oncoming traffic.
In a third accident near Mtubatuba on the N2, another three people were reported by the KwaZulu-Natal transport department to have died, while in a fourth a seven-year-old school boy was reported to have been killed in the remote Hlabisa district when he was hit by a car.
Earlier KwaZulu-Natal transport spokesperson Rajen Chinaboo said the Dundee accident had taken place on Nyanyadu Road, between Dundee and Oziweni.
Eleven people were declared dead at the scene by the provincial Emergency Medical Rescue Service (EMRS) after a minibus taxi and a truck carrying coal collided. Another four died later in hospital.
The cause of the collision was not immediately known.
Mbangwa said four people were reported to be in a critical condition in the Dundee Provincial Hospital, while another person was in the Madadeni Hospital.
John Snell, head of the Road Traffic Inspectorate, who was at the second accident scene on the N3 near Shongweni on the outskirts of Durban, said initial indications were that a bakkie was travelling on the north-bound freeway when the driver lost control.
In a bid to avoid the bakkie, a Fiat Palio driver heading in the same direction also lost control and rolled his car.
Both cars then went across the centre-medium and into the south-bound lane.
The bakkie collided head on with a red Citi Golf, before flying down a steep embankment and landing about 25m from the south-bound carriageway.
Two occupants of the Golf died on impact and firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to extract their bodies.
Another eight people from the bakkie were declared dead at the scene.
A South African Press Association reporter at the scene said bodies, and in some cases body parts, were scattered across the south-bound lane.
Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said one person was critically injured while two others were in a serious condition, including the Fiat Palio driver. The critically injured man was airlifted to Durban’s Albert Luthuli Hospital.
The N3 Durban-bound was closed at the M13 (old N3 route to Durban).
Chinaboo said that at the same time, another accident was reported on the N2 northbound heading towards Mtubatuba. A car driver lost control and the vehicle overturned.
Six adults, teachers from Ntikini Primary School in Inquabumo, and a ten-year-old child were in the car. Two adults and the child died at the scene.
Another three were critically injured and one sustained serious injuries.
Speaking from the crash scene near Shongweni, provincial minister of safety and security Bheki Cele said: “This is not a very good morning.
“We have lost ten people here and another three in Mtubatuba.”
He said the bakkie in the second crash belonged to contractors working for Rainbow Chicken.
It emerged later that the workers were employed by Shaving Supply Company, which is a contracting firm supplying labour for Rainbow Chicken.
Cele said overloading was a big problem. “We believe that the eight people [in the back of the bakkie] should not have been there. It makes people sitting ducks.”
While the law prohibited the transporting of people in the back of bakkies for profit, there was currently no prohibition on the transportation of people on the back of bakkies for other reasons.
Cele said a full investigation was under way.
Gary Mervis, a director of Shaving Supply Company, said he first heard of the [Shongweni] accident on the radio.
“I tried to contact the guys on their cellphones. I knew in my gut it was my guys. They were supposed to be passing here,” he said.
When told by Cele how many of his workers had died, a visibly shaken Mervis gasped and held his hand over his mouth.
A relative of one of the dead had to be restrained by traffic officials to prevent him from going to look at the gruesome scene spread across the N3.
Mbangwa said the seven-year old school boy was declared dead at Hlabisa Hospital after being rushed there.
Late on Monday afternoon, emergency personnel rushed to Camperdown, about 35km from Pietermaritzburg, after a bus collided with a taxi on the N3 at the Camperdown offramp.
At least 31 people were reported to have been injured, with EMRS reporting that one was in a critical condition and nine were in a serious condition.
Most of the injured were being transported to Pietermaritzburg Hospital.
Further details were not immediately available on that accident.
On Sunday night 10 people were killed in the Eastern Cape in a head-on collision between a taxi and a bakkie near Mount Frere.—Sapa
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