festive outing ends in LOSS OF LIVES

CHEATED DEATH: Motoko Nkokana is one of those who survived the road traffic accident. Pic. Veli Nhlapo. 10/01/2008. © Sowetan.
CHEATED DEATH: Motoko Nkokana is one of those who survived the road traffic accident. Pic. Veli Nhlapo. 10/01/2008. © Sowetan.

Sello Rabothata

Sello Rabothata

Though Highlands Robbers had lost their opening match in an annual off-season soccer tournament by 1-0 to Dimamarela on Boxing Day, they were still in high spirits on their way back home.

That was the one and only day the popular event was held last year.

What followed after the games on their way home was to throw the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho into mourning as 26 of the 56 on board the travelling truck died in a horrific accident nearly 10km from home.

The annual off-season tournament was held at Ha Seshote, while the accident happened about 15km away in Ha Theko, near the Katse Dam, in the Leribe district at about 7pm.

Nineteen of the group died on the spot while six died at the Mamohau Hospital and one at the Mofumahali Elizabeth oa Bobeli. The 30 survivors are either being treated at the hospitals, the Motebang Hospital, or at home.

Motoko Matela Nkokana survived and related the horror of the day.

Six teams were involved in the tourney and they are: Katse Wanderers, Lijabatho, Litshepe, Rangers, Limamarela and the ill-fated Highlands Robbers.

Each team had paid a R250 affiliation fee, which had brought the prize at stake to R1500 for the winners.

Reliving the day's events, Nkokana said: "Despite the loss, the travelling group was jubilant, singing and dancing in the back of the truck. After all, it was the festive season and we were in a happy mood.

"It was while driving down the mountain slope in Ha Theko that the driver seemed to experience some problems with the truck because it began swerving from side to side."

Nkokana believes that even those who were in the truck's cab with the driver might have been engaged in singing and dancing, which in turn could have interfered with the driver's ability to control the truck.

"As we approached one of the road's many curves, the driver seemed to lose control and the group in the back started to panic. By moving to one side of the truck, the group caused it to tilt to its right, which in turn lifted both wheels on the left side off the road, sending people out into the air and on to the mountain's rocks. It rolled over a couple of times and each time it did, it came back to land on it's fallen cargo.

"People were screaming and crying while others were dying, some were seriously injured and others escaped with minor injuries. Others miraculously only sustained scratches."

Nkokana had an unmistakable expression on his face that said: We will never forget.