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31 Aug 2010 12:49
The driver of the taxi involved in last week’s horrific Cape Flats level-crossing accident appeared briefly in the Blue Downs Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Jacob Humphreys (55), of Elsiesrivier, faces 10 counts of culpable homicide, although this may change.
Nine schoolchildren died when his taxi allegedly jumped a line of cars waiting at the Blackheath level crossing and was hit by an oncoming train. A 10th child died in hospital.
At the request of the prosecutor, magistrate Gerald Hattingh postponed the case to September 7 so that the state could gather bail information.
He ordered that Humphreys remain in custody.
The taxi driver was arrested on Sunday immediately after being discharged from hospital.
He smiled at relatives in the public gallery as he entered court on Tuesday morning, waving to them and calling out “hello”.
Humphreys, wearing a blue tracksuit top, listened as prosecutor Quintin Appels told the magistrate that the 10 culpable homicide counts were what he faced “at this stage”.
A decision on the final charges and how many there would be would be made later and would depend on how the investigation proceeded.
Appels, who is attached to the Western Cape regional office of the National Prosecuting Authority, asked for a seven-day postponement so the state could get bail information.
“Certain information” the state applied for on Monday was not available yet, he said, and he was not in a position to address the court about bail.
Advocate William Fisher, who appeared for Humphreys, said he realised he could not object to the postponement.
However, because it was such a high-profile case, the state should by now have all the information it needed.
Fisher said he believed the real reason for the postponement was that the state wanted to decide whether to oppose bail.
He said that although Humphreys’s injuries from the crash had been “cared for”, his client was an asthma sufferer and would need pills and a pump in prison.
Hattingh said he did not have a high opinion of medical care in prisons, and it would be better if Humphreys’s family supplied him with the medication he needed.
“Because in jail it’s a hopeless situation,” he said.
Hattingh said he wanted to express his sympathy to the families of the dead children.
He himself had lost a 13-year-old child 24 years ago.
He also expressed sympathy for Humphreys, because of the position the taxi driver was in. “He also has family,” Hattingh said.
Humphreys was hurried out of the court by police after the hearing.
Many of the people in the public gallery appeared to be relatives of Humphreys. They declined to speak to media.
Although there was a heavy police and metro police presence in and around the court, there were no demonstrations.—Sapa
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