Nine children killed in crash

26 August 2010 - 00:32 By NASHIRA DAVIDS

"I want my baby!" screamed a mother as she was lifted out of a police vehicle.

Her chilling cries cut through the air as she was carried away.

Her son was one of nine children killed when the taxi they were travelling in smashed into a train after driving through the closed boom of a level crossing just before 7am in Blackheath, near Cape Town, yesterday.

Hanif Loonat, spokesman for the Western Cape Provincial Police Forum Board, said: "It was a terrible sight. Some bodies were mangled, others didn't even have a scratch on them and there were bodies drenched in blood."

News of the crash spread fast and police ushered parents gathered at the scene to a nearby house where they received counselling before being told the terrible news.

Three girls and six boys died. Five boys who survived are fighting for their lives in the Tygerberg and Red Cross Children's hospitals.

The taxi driver was admitted to a private hospital in Kuilsriver.

Police spokesman Colonel Billy Jones said the train was en route to the Strand when it collided with the taxi at the Buttskop level crossing.

"Preliminary investigation indicates that the boom at the level crossing was down when the taxi crossed the railway track," he said.

The driver, whose identity is known to The Times, has been transporting children in the area for almost 10 years and is reputed to be a "reliable driver".

Heidi Felix's son, Kyle Warner, 15, a pupil at Kasselsvlei High School, survived, but her niece, Nadine Martinussen, 16, died in the crash.

She said: "My little nephew, Emelio, Nadine's brother, also survived. He is in a critical condition .

"But my son is now blind in the one eye. They are draining blood from his one lung and his other lung has been punctured. He just wants to know how everyone is and whether the van is a write-off. I can't tell him."

Western Cape transport MEC Robin Carlisle and community safety MEC Lennit Max rushed to the scene. Both wept with the parents of the children who died.

Carlisle's department has established that the taxi was roadworthy and had a valid operating licence, but was only allowed to transport children to Bellville Technical High School and Labiance Primary School.

However, the driver also transported children to four other schools.

Carlisle said: "My department is investigating whether the taxi driver may have breached the code of conduct for public transport operators. If this was the case, we will pass the information to the police for additional charges.

"If we further establish that the driver flagrantly disregarded the conditions of his operating licence we will not hesitate to cancel that licence."

Police have opened a case of culpable homicide against the driver. Calls have been made to charge him with murder.

The accident occurred on the fifth anniversary of the Kloofnek bus accident in Cape Town in which three children and their driver died. About 130 children from Dennegeur Primary School in Mitchell's Plain were on a school outing when the brakes of the bus failed. Forty children were injured.

  • To make a donation to the families call the Community Women's Action Organisation on 021-904-5622. - Additional reporting by Buyekezwa Makwabe