10 killed in ‘death road’ crashes

Blaze burns vic­tims be­yond recog­ni­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KOWTHAR SOLOMONS and HENRIËTTE GELDEN­HUYS

THE N1 high­way re­mained par­tially closed late yes­ter­day af­ter two trucks col­lided headon, killing three peo­ple in one of two ac­ci­dents which left a to­tal of 10 peo­ple dead on the sec­tion known as “death road”.

The crashes marked a grim start to the fes­tive sea­son with all 10 bod­ies burnt be­yond recog­ni­tion.

Tens of thou­sands of mo­torists are still ex­pected to make their way out of the prov­ince as Christ­mas ap­proaches, rais­ing safety con­cerns among traf­fic au­thor­i­ties.

Pro­vin­cial Traf­fic Chief Kenny Africa said yes­ter­day that the N1 was closed for most of the day, un­til part of the wreck­age from the two crashes, which oc­curred within an hour of one another, could be re­moved from the crash site near Beaufort West. A sin­gle lane was then opened at 3.30pm.

The first ac­ci­dent oc­curred at 3.30am yes­ter­day, and the next at 5am.

In the first, a col­li­sion be­tween a bakkie and a minibus taxi about 14km out­side Laings­burg, seven peo­ple were killed. The six dead in the bakkie in­cluded two adults, two chil­dren and two ba­bies. The pas­sen­ger in the front seat of the taxi also died, while the driver and another pas­sen­ger were se­ri­ously in­jured and taken to hos­pi­tal.

In the sec­ond crash about 45km from Beaufort West, two trucks col­lided head-on, spark­ing a ma­jor blaze which raged most of the morn­ing be­cause one truck car­ried crates of pa­per. The blaze dam­aged phone lines and af­fected land­line and cell­phone re­cep­tion.

Both driv­ers and a pas­sen­ger in one of the trucks were killed.

Africa said traf­fic was backed up 17km in both di­rec­tions, as ve­hi­cles were di­verted along a farm road.

Mean­while, traf­fic au­thor­i­ties have an­nounced that road­blocks will be beefed up across the prov­ince, and ve­hi­cles will have to un­dergo safety checks be­fore leav­ing Cape Town.

Africa told Weekend Ar­gus that traf­fic of­fi­cers would adopt a “no-non­sense” at­ti­tude.

“There will be high vis­i­bil­ity. Traf­fic of­fi­cers will be out in full force and do thor­ough in­spec­tions,” he said.

“We will stop and ar­rest any­body who de­cides to do ex­ces­sively high speeds.”

Since De­cem­ber 5, a mo­torist was ar­rested on the N2 near Mos­sel Bay driv­ing at 182k/ h in a 120km/ h zone, another for driv­ing more than 170km/h in a 120km/h zone, also near Mos­sel Bay, and another for driv­ing 138km/h in an 80 km/h zone be­tween Beaufort West and Aberdeen.

Africa blamed 80 per­cent of deaths on the roads on peo­ple not wear­ing safety belts, and warned that driv­ers would be held re­spon­si­ble if chil­dren younger than 14 were not buck­led up.

“We will be very strict to­wards cul­prits not wear­ing safety belts,” Africa said.

On Thurs­day, safety and se­cu­rity mayco mem­ber JP Smith launched Op­er­a­tion Ex­o­dus, which will con­tinue un­til Christ­mas Eve.

He said the ex­er­cise would in­volve 102 traf­fic of­fi­cers who would check the fit­ness of longdis­tance trans­port ve­hi­cles, and the cre­den­tials of driv­ers leav­ing the city.

The checks would be done at the city’s pub­lic trans­port in­ter­changes, in­clud­ing Joe Gqabi, Bel­lville/Parc Du Cap, Mfu­leni, Langa, Du Noon, Cape Town sta­tion and Ep­ping.

Of­fi­cers would also check for over- load­ing, and would en­sure that the doc­u­men­ta­tion of all driv­ers and ve­hi­cles were in or­der be­fore they were al­lowed to leave.

Yes­ter­day Smith was at the Joe Gqabi in­ter­change in Philippi, where he said 10 ve­hi­cles were im­pounded for un­road­wor­thi­ness dur­ing the morn­ing.

“Ve­hi­cles first have to be tested be­fore they pick up pas­sen­gers. The aim is to avoid the car­nage be­tween Cape Town and the bor­der of our prov­ince,” he said.

How­ever, large bus com­pa­nies have re­ported that they have the nec­es­sary safety mea­sures in place.

Sharon Oliver, ad­min­is­tra- tion man­ager for Grey­hound and Ci­ti­liner, said all coaches un­der­went checks by qual­i­fied tech­ni­cians, in­clud­ing brake test­ing, be­fore they were al­lowed to de­part.

Coach checks en route were also car­ried out “to en­sure we main­tain our safety mea­sures and cus­tomer ser­vice lev­els”.

The com­pa­nies also tracked and mon­i­tored all coaches at all times, Oliver said.

In­ter­cape spokesman Danie du Toit said each coach un­der­went a com­pre­hen­sive safety check be­fore ev­ery de­par­ture.

Ev­ery driver also had to take a breathal­yser test be­fore each trip.

The com­pany in­sti­tuted its own 95km/h speed limit and 40km/h on moun­tain passes, Du Toit added, say­ing that each coach was equipped with a re­al­time satel­lite track­ing de­vice which al­lowed for ef­fec­tive mon­i­tor­ing.

PIC­TURES: JAC­QUES GROE­NEWALD

CAR­NAGE: Seven peo­ple were killed when a bakkie and a mini-bus taxi col­lided head- on out­side of Laings­burg. Both ve­hi­cles caught alight, and the bod­ies of the vic­tims were burnt be­yond recog­ni­tion.

CRASH SCENE: Three peo­ple died in this crash on the N1’s no­to­ri­ous ‘stretch of death’ when two trucks col­lided .

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