Two drivers killed in three-car freeway crash

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

Two drivers died in a three-vehicle pile-up on the N4 freeway about 10km from Nelspruit in Mpumalanga on Sunday.

The driver of a minibus believed to have been ferrying passengers from Ivory Park in Tembisa, Gauteng, to Mozambique was burnt beyond recognition when his vehicle - that was apparently carrying 20-litre containers of petrol - caught fire on impact.

The driver of a bakkie that was also involved in the accident also died and scores of other injured people were taken to Rob Ferreira Hospital in Nelspruit.

Inspector Dawie Pretorius confirmed that the two drivers died at the scene. He did not know how many other people were injured.

"I can confirm that two drivers died at the scene but until I have spoken to the investigating officer, I cannot comment about the injured people," he said.

He said police were still investigating how the accident happened, but witnesses told Sowetan that the minibus taxi lost control before it collided with another taxi from Malelane.

"The minibus from Malelane then collided with a bakkie that was thrown off the road. The one minibus taxi then caught fire," said Peter Majola, a motorist who witnessed the accident.

He said some of the petrol containers remained in the vehicle and caused an explosion.

The driver of the minibus was trapped in the burning vehicle and bystanders looked on helplessly before the fire brigade arrived and extinguished the fire.

The N4 freeway had to be closed for about three hours and traffic was diverted via Magugu suburb while the accident scene was being cleared.

The accident happened at a place where a big sign written "High accident zone" is clearly mounted on either side of the busy road.

Mpumalanga provincial police spokesman Superintendent Abie Khoabane warned that it was against the law to transport petrol in a vehicle not designed for that purpose.

"It is against the Safety Act to transport petrol in a vehicle that has not been designed for that purpose.

"I believe the vehicle would not have caught fire if it was not for the petrol," said Khoabane.

Police said the names of the dead could not be released as they were still struggling to trace their next of kin.

Joseph Mabuza, Mpumalanga transport department spokesman, refused to comment and referred all enquiries to the Nelspruit police.