six die as train and taxi crash

GRUESOME: A taxi and train crash at Sandfotein in North West claimed the lives of six people yesterday. Pic: PETER MOGAKI. 02/03/2010. © Sowetan.
GRUESOME: A taxi and train crash at Sandfotein in North West claimed the lives of six people yesterday. Pic: PETER MOGAKI. 02/03/2010. © Sowetan.

A 16-YEAR-OLD Grade 10 pupil yesterday described how she jumped out of a taxi - in which six people lost their lives - seconds before it was hit by a train.

The accident happened yesterday morning in Sandfontein, a village outside Rustenburg in North West. The taxi was apparently on its way to Welgeval, another village just a kilometre away.

Six people, including the cousin of schoolgirl Annie Mathuba, died in the accident. The dead were three pupils and three adults - who included the heavily pregnant Macy Makalaba, 23.

The three dead pupils are Lerato Moalusi, 16, her cousin Lebogang Mabai, 16, and Annie's cousin Seadimo Mathuba, 16, all Grade 10 pupils at Raphulere High School. Four other Raphulere pupils suffered serious injury and are in hospital.

The other adults had not been identified at the time of going to press.

"Everything happened so fast. I do not know how I got the strength to get out and run," Mathuba said.

Mathuba said she asked the taxi driver to reverse the vehicle because she saw a goods train approaching fast, but he never did.

"I think I was saved by God. As we stopped at the level crossing I heard the loud siren of an approaching goods train. I saw it approaching but suddenly the driver moved the taxi forward.

"I got such a shock when I realised that the bonnet of the taxi was very close to the rail line. I shouted at the taxi driver to reverse but he did not.

"I jumped out of the taxi and ran. There was a loud bang. I turned and watched in horror as the train dragged the taxi away," said a sobbing Mathuba.

She said she heard the passengers in the taxi screaming as they were thrown out of the vehicle.

Makalaba's grandmother, Sina Mokonyane, said she had looked forward to having another great-grandchild.

"If only they were fast and saved the baby. Macy was due to deliver this month. I lost two people in the accident," Mokonyane said.

Moalusi's father said his child, Lerato, and her cousin Lebogang were inseparable.

"They were the same age. They grew up together and went to school together every day," Moalusi said.

He identified both Lerato and Lebogang on the scene. They had suffered serious head injuries.

Residents said there had been many accidents at the same rail crossing, but none as horrific as this latest one.

"Most accidents involved livestock. You always see people carrying dead cows or sheep after they have been hit by trains," said Lizzy Monyeki, who stays near the railway line.

Principal Chimane Mmope said: "I have no words. I lost pupils, others are in hospital. This is bad."

A memorial service for the pupils would be organised by the school, Mmope said.

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased.

"We want to convey our condolences to the families and relatives of all those killed in the accident, including the three high school learners," Ndebele said.

"We wish those injured a speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.

"The Railway Safety Regulator's inspectors have been dispatched to investigate the level crossing collision."