Train driver at­tacked

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

AN IN­JURED Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) train driver drove with pieces of glass in his eyes to safety af­ter an as­sailant shat­tered the front win­dow of his train with a brick. He was driv­ing into Du Toit rail­way sta­tion near Stel­len­bosch when the at­tack oc­curred, the United Na­tional Trans­port Union (Untu) said yesterday. Willem Spence, 52, an Untu mem­ber who had been driv­ing trains for the past 27 years, was driv­ing slowly and had just passed a squat­ter camp near the sta­tion at about 11.45pm when he saw the at­tacker in front of him on the rail­way line, Untu gen­eral sec­re­tary Steve Har­ris said. The brick shat­tered the win­dow and pieces of glass flew into his eyes. He also had sev­eral cuts on his face and arms. Spence de­cided to con­tinue to the Stel­len­bosch sta­tion be­cause he could not see any po­lice or se­cu­rity guards at Du Toit sta­tion to as­sist him. His train was filled with com­muters. At Stel­len­bosch sta­tion, po­lice and se­cu­rity guards as­sisted the in­jured train driver. He was taken to hos­pi­tal, where pieces of glass were re­moved from his eyes. Spence would be on sick leave for a week be­fore the doc­tor could check his eyes again, Har­ris said. “It has be­come life threat­en­ing to drive our trains. We are un­der siege from crim­i­nals who know that we are soft tar­gets. As train driv­ers, we can no longer fo­cus on nor­mal train safety and the safety of the pas­sen­gers we carry, as we con­stantly must be on the look­out for crim­i­nals,” Spence told Har­ris. Spence used to work as a train driver on the no­to­ri­ous cen­tral line be­tween Cape Town and Khayelit­sha, but asked Prasa’s hu­man re­sources depart­ment to trans­fer him to a “safe” route af­ter he was at­tacked sev­eral times. Har­ris said at­tacks on the crews were no longer lim­ited to spe­cific routes. Crim­i­nals were tar­get­ing the driv­ers on routes in the Western Cape, Gaut­eng and KwaZulu-Natal, he pointed out. – ANA

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