Kombi, cop chase claims 14 lives
TSHANENI – A high speed chase between a kombi driver and a traffic police officer ended tragically, claiming the lives of 14 people including a three months old baby.
All the deceased died on the spot after the kombi suspected to have been overloaded crashed into a concrete bus stop shelter before bursting into flames.
The accident, happened yesterday along the MR5 (Tshaneni-Madlangempisi) public road at about 9.30am.
11 of the passengers were trapped inside the kombi which immediately burst into flames on impact.
The impact at which the kombi hit the shelter is suspected to have had a role in the vehicle bursting into flames.
This however is subject to confirmation. Three of the deceased were flung out of the kombi operating under the name Sitini Transport, when it hit the shelter
An eyewitness, Eric Sifundza from the Swaziland Fire and Emergency Services said the 11 were trapped inside the vehicle for almost an hour and there was nothing they could do to assist.
"I was returning from Sihho-ye when I saw smoke emanating near the shelter. At first I thought some people were burning rubbish, but to my shock, I found that it was a kombi and there were people trapped inside.
"Some motorists who were first to the scene made every attempt to put the fire out and rescue the passengers, but the flames were unbearable. Most of the people were using fire extinguishers from their cars. The flames were just too big. The screams from the people inside were unbearable," said Sifundza while looking at the debris littered across the road.
Adding he said most of the potential ‘Good Samaritans’ were afraid that the kombi might explode, which is why they kept their distance.
As the flames grew bigger, Sifu-ndza who was almost in tears himself said the others gave up and watched helplessly. "We could hear the people screaming for help, but we could not help," he said while looking at the wreckage.
Asked to relate events leading to the accident, Sifundza said even though he did not actually witness it, he heard from the other motorists that there was a high speed chase.
He explained that the police chased after the kombi when they realised that it was overloaded.
"The police ordered the driver to stop, but he accelerated. One of the officers jumped onto his motor cycle and chased after the kombi. I assume the driver lost control of the vehicle before cra-shing into the shelter," Sifundza shared.
Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Assistant Superintendent Stephen Dlamini confirmed that 14 people died on the spot while one passenger and the driver escaped with some injuries.
Dlamini said the driver has been arrested and will face 14 charges of culpable homicide.
Were police right to chase after kombi?
TSHANENI – A debate ensued at the accident scene among eyewitnesses on whether police were wrong or right to chase after drivers who had committed an offence.
This was during an interview with one of the witnesses who suggested that the driver should have stopped when ordered by the police.
Most of the people shared the same sentiments with Bomber Magagula that lives were lost due to the driver’s failure to obey an order. "The law is clear, when police order you to stop, just comply. They stop you because there is something wrong you have done. I own kombis. Even my drivers know that when they run away from the police, they attract trouble towards me as an owner," he said.
Magagula said people died for just E60, which is a spot fine for an overload. This amount was also confirmed by Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Assistant Superintendent Stephen Dlamini.
Meanwhile, one of the eyewitnesses identified as Senzo blamed the police for causing the accident. "The police should have taken the registration number of the kombi, instead of chasing after it," he said.
Senzo illustrated that a similar incident that claimed one life occurred about a kilometre away from the accident scene.
The police spokesperson, Dla-mini appealed to motorists to obey orders issued by police. It was for this reason that such accidents occur, lamented Dlamini.
‘Kombi was definitely overloaded’
TSHANENI – The kombi operating as Sitini Transport was over-loaded, confirmed Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Assistant Superintendent Stephen Dlamini.
He said there were 16 people on board, instead of the mandatory 14.
He explained that it was for this reason the driver allegedly decided to escape when ordered to stop.
"In fact, he passed a road-block where it was found that he had the unlawful number of passengers on board. Moments after passing the roadblock, he was seen by the officers loading more passengers. And that is when trouble started," Dlamini related.
One of the traffic officers chased after the kombi with the intention of stopping it, said Dlamini.
Instead of stopping, Dlamini said the driver sped away before crashing into the wall about eight kilometres from the road-block.
10 families come to identify remains
MBABANE – The police have called on the public and relatives of people who were travelling from Tshaneni yesterday to contact them urgently if such a person hasn’t reported back home.
He said those whose relatives have not reported having arrived safely at their destinations should also call them.
This is to help identify the remains of those who were charred in the accident.
11 of the passengers were trapped inside the kombi and people who were first to arrive at the scene watched in tears as the people screamed, requesting that they be saved.
However nobody could help as the flames were too big.
Police Deputy Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent, Stephen Dlamini called on the public to assist them. Dlamini said 10 families had already reported that they suspected their relatives were among the deceased.
He said the families could not positively identify their relatives because the corpses were burnt beyond recognition.
"Those who suspect that a relative was on board the kombi should contact the Tshaneni Police Station urgently," Dlamini said.
Police was right to do the job
December 8, 2011, 4:01 am, email@example.com
As much as blaming anyone won't change anything at this point in time, innocent lives have been lost because of two men (kombi driver and police) who thought they could prove a point. These traffic cops think they own everything on the road and these drivers just don't want to learn. How will you live with yourselves knowing this tragedy could have been avoided by both of you?? Ay, akusenani! Personally you've taken away from me an irreplaceable part of my family.. Rest in peace Nyambose!
December 8, 2011, 4:00 am, tebu (firstname.lastname@example.org)
That driver must be charged for bulk murder than culpable homicide as this was intentional.
December 8, 2011, 4:00 am, MICAH DLAMINI S (email@example.com)
they were both wrong, but the police should have taken the number of the kombi rather than chasing it. uyicosha njani nje imoto letfwele sive, loE60 bekatamtfola, imiphefumulo ihambile....
December 8, 2011, 4:00 am, Jes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
but leni nje? Why do kombi drivers dnt obey the law,yini kahle kahke,what must b done to this people.Police officers its yur duty to save lives,our kombi drivers are so sturbon,please do some means to soft their hearts,we have lost so many of our relatives in the roads because of them.Maybe do a lot of campaigns of road safety and accidents,i dont know but please officers,do something.it hurts to lose your loved one in such a manner,due to someone mistake.To all those families i pass my condolences.
December 8, 2011, 4:00 am, philile (email@example.com)
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