First findings on cause of train crash out on Monday

08 January 2018 - 12:11 By Kyle Cowan
The Shosholoza Meyl train after hitting two other vehicles.
The Shosholoza Meyl train after hitting two other vehicles.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) will on Monday release a preliminary investigation report into the cause of Thursday’s Kroonstad Shosholoza Meyl crash.

At least 19 people died when the train‚ en route from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg‚ collided with an articulated tipper truck causing several carriages to derail.

Four children were among the dead.

A fire broke out soon afterwards‚ engulfing some carriages while passengers were still trapped inside.

RSR spokesperson Madelein Williams said the regulator was finalising the report and it would be released sometime on Monday.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) meanwhile said it was meeting with the families of some of the victims in Braamfontein.

Prasa spokesperson Daisy Daniel confirmed to ENCA on Monday that at least 15 passengers were still unaccounted for.

In response to queries sent at the weekend‚ Prasa said the total number of passengers on board the train at the time of the collision was 599‚ along with 23 staff members.

There were 18 coaches‚ made up of sleeper coaches‚ a double dining car and a power car‚ Prasa said.

A Prasa spokesperson denied allegations that the train was overloaded.

“This is not possible. All our long-distance trains are configured according to the demand of our passengers. The train is made up of sleeper coaches and ‘seater’ coaches. Passengers make a clear distinction when they make bookings‚ allowing Shosholoza Meyl to plan the number of coaches accordingly‚” he said.

He added that the train was travelling under the speed limit of 90km/h and that‚ in addition to the RSR’s investigation‚ Prasa was conducting its own internal probe.

On Thursday evening‚ acting Prasa rail CEO Mthuthuzeli Swartz told ENCA the crash had been caused by the truck driver trying to “beat the train” at a level crossing.

“Mr Swartz made a preliminary assessment as the acting CEO of Prasa Rail. The final investigation will be the final determinant that either supports or repudiates the assessment‚” Prasa said when asked if it stood by this view.

The agency refused to reply when asked whether it was concerned about the fierceness of the blaze and if it would be reviewing the materials used in the carriage fixtures. 

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