Aid pledge for train accident families amid DNA tests

09 January 2018 - 07:26 By Timeslive
A woman who was a passenger on the train which crashed on January 4‚ carries her child to shelter after he suffered heatstroke.
A woman who was a passenger on the train which crashed on January 4‚ carries her child to shelter after he suffered heatstroke.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

Support is being provided to families who are taking part in DNA testing to verify the identity of their next of kin‚ who are among the 19 passengers to die in a Shosholoza Meyl level-rail crossing accident near Kroonstad on January 4‚ says rail entity Prasa.

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.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa said in a statement last night that Monday was a hectic day at Umjantshi House as Prasa officially opened a 24-hour walk-in centre to assist affected passengers and family members of those who died or were injured in the crash.

The walk-in centre‚ which is jointly managed by the Department of Transport and Prasa and supported by the Road Accident Fund and the Road Traffic Management Corporation‚ processed almost 100 family members in total who came seeking assistance and more information about those affected by the accident.

The Department of Transport earlier in the day convened a joint meeting with all the transport entities "to outline government’s committed support to the affected family members that required assistance towards a dignified burial of their loved ones".

A meeting with approximately 50 family members of the 19 deceased passengers was convened with the Acting Group CEO‚ Cromet Molepo‚ and Acting DG of Transport‚ Mathabatha Mokonyama‚ and Prasa board member‚ Godfrey Maluleke‚ "as part of the ongoing oversight role by the Department of Transport into the smooth and dignified management of the processes by Prasa".

On Tuesday‚ Prasa and department officials will accompany families of the 19 deceased passengers to Kroonstad to identify their next of kin and to be a part of DNA testing for verification‚ said Prasa.

Prasa's Molepo urged the families to ensure that closely related kin or family members would avail themselves for testing.

“We would like to urge the families to have the closest next of kin available for the DNA testing to ensure accurate results. We are aware of the trauma that the families have already endured. This is why we have provided all the necessary counselling and psychological support but we are keenly aware of the pain the families are going through.”

The department's Mokonyama assured the families that both the Minister of Transport‚ Joe Maswanganyi‚ and Deputy Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga "want Prasa to support both the injured passengers and the bereaved families‚ and ensure that the people are a priority".

Meanwhile‚ Monday alone‚ Prasa said 43 enquiries were processed at the walk-in centre‚ ranging from lost luggage to medical related enquiries and claims.