Prasa lays blame for Shosholoza Meyl derailment on truck driver

The death toll in Thursday morning’s fiery Free State train crash has risen to at least 18‚ with emergency officials still searching the wreckage for more bodies.
Shosholoza Meyl The death toll in Thursday morning’s fiery Free State train crash has risen to at least 18‚ with emergency officials still searching the wreckage for more bodies.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has blamed the collision between a Shosholoza Meyl train and a truck near Kroonstad in the Free State on Thursday morning on human error.

Prasa has confirmed that at least 18 people were killed in the tragedy.

Acting Prasa Rail CEO Mthuthuzeli Swartz told eNCA Prasa would be assisting the families if they chose to take legal action against the driver or the company that owns the truck.

Prasa said that the driver had tried to beat the train at a level crossing and made it halfway across before the train slammed into the back half of the trailer‚ dragging it for 400m.

Of a total of 15 carriages‚ seven caught fire – trapping several inside the mangled wreckage as it was engulfed in flames in what has been described by Prasa as one of the biggest accidents of its kind.

Late on Thursday afternoon rescue workers and investigators were still combing the scene‚ and more bodies are expected to emerge from the wreck.

It will take an estimated 36 hours to clear the scene and restore operation to the railway.

Most of the victims recovered so far were burned beyond recognition while both the driver of the truck and the train survived with minor injuries.

According to an earlier statement issued by Prasa‚ the train had departed from Port Elizabeth on Wednesday afternoon bound for Johannesburg.

While it is not yet clear how‚ a small car was also involved.

One passenger said the train was blowing its horn long before the jarring impact.

Video footage shows a scene shrouded in smoke‚ the wrecked train looming in the background‚ as passengers help each other move away from the heat of the flames.

According to Swartz‚ 713 passengers were booked on the train. 254 were injured of which four were critical‚ 23 in a serious condition and the remainder treated for minor injuries.

A statement issued by Prasa however said 429 passengers were onboard.

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