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Worst accident in decade

An accident on the R40 that left 10 people dead was the worst they had encountered, rescue workers say.

WHITE RIVER – An eyewitness watched in horror as a fireball engulfed a bus and truck shortly after a collision on the R40 to Hazyview on Wednesday night. The carnage, however, did not end there as the driver of a Toyota RAV 4 failed to see the bus wreckage and smashed into its side. Miraculously, the driver of the RAV managed to escape, but 10 people were burnt beyond recognition and 40 more injured.

An eyewitness account of the accident

Mr Richard Prangley was driving right behind the truck and saw it all happen. “My wife and I were driving about 120 metres behind the truck on our way to White River and saw it slowly drift into the oncoming lane. The next moment it collided head-on with a bus travelling to Hazyview.”

Prangley said there were no vehicles to overtake and he didn’t even see the truck’s brake lights come on. As soon as the two vehicles collided, there was a massive explosion and a ball of fire erupted.

According to Prangley, it was amazing that the bus remained upright, since the front was ripped off and the truck’s cab was mangled.

When the initial flames subsided, passengers started climbing out of the front of the bus, some dragging fellow occupants through the blaze. Smaller secondary explosions followed, but survivors managed to escape from the back of the bus through the shattered windows.

“It was a very traumatic sight. I thought everyone had died on impact,” Prangley said. He choked back tears as he recalled the events to Lowvelder. Because of the massive flames, he didn’t dare approach any of the vehicles.

Prangley complimented the authorities and emergency services for their quick response. “They secured the scene swiftly. By the time I reached the circle at Casterbridge, traffic was already being rerouted.”

Rescue workers attend to the scene

Traffic officials redirected traffic from White River around the circle at Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre and onto the R538 to Numbi Gate, while traffic from Hazyview was rerouted via a back road past the White River Country Club.

ER24 paramedics, as well as other emergency-services personnel, arrived at the scene to find the bus ablaze and the burnt bodies lying around the wreckage. They immediately began treating the survivors.

Some of the patients required advanced life support before they could be transported to Rob Ferreira and Themba hospitals.

A total of 22 patients were taken to Rob, most with minor injuries.

The most serious injury was a dislocated shoulder. Fourteen others were taken to Themba, but only two had suffered serious injuries.

According to Mr Ronnie Masilela, spokesman for the Department of Health, they are currently in a stable condition.

The bodies of the 10 deceased are being kept at the state mortuary at Themba.

Crime-scene experts arrived and immediately began their investigation. Members of the K9 unit were also summoned to search for bodies that might have been flung out of the vehicles on impact. None were found in the bush or trees.

Politicians convey their condolences

MEC for community safety, security and liaison, Mr Vusi Shongwe, also arrived at the scene. He has been commended for his presence at serious accidents. Mbombela Local Municipality spokesman,

Mr Joseph Ngala, sent the municipality’s condolences to all the bereaved families. He also requested people who suspected that friends or family could have been involved in the accident, to report to the White River SAPS.

Mpumalanga premier Mr David Mabuza also conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

“It is unfortunate that accidents continue to rob our province of breadwinners, bring sorrow and contribute towards complicating the lives of many families,” he said. Mabuza urged motorists constantly to exercise caution on the roads and to stop and rest when fatigued.

He added government would continue to do its part in ensuring that the roads were safe through maintenance and law enforcement.

“As a provincial government, we view accidents in a serious light because the loss of one life is one too many,” said Mabuza.

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