WATCH | Witness tells of relief on learning no one died in train crash

04 September 2018 - 13:41 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Metrorail workers are pictured on the scene where two trains collided on September 4, 2018, near the Booysens train station in Johannesburg. Over 100 commuters were injured in the incident.
Metrorail workers are pictured on the scene where two trains collided on September 4, 2018, near the Booysens train station in Johannesburg. Over 100 commuters were injured in the incident.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The relief of learning no one died was like a balm to Thembisa Lukwe‚ who rushed to offer her help after two trains collided head-on near Booysens station in the south of Johannesburg on Tuesday morning‚ leaving over 110 commuters injured.

A Metrorail train travelling from Faraday towards New Canada station collided with a Naledi Jikeleza train‚ according to preliminary reports from the scene.

"A total 112 commuters - mostly without valid train tickets - sustained minor injuries and seven with serious but not critical injuries are receiving medical attention at four local various hospitals‚" said Lillian Mofokeng‚ spokesperson for the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).

Four train crew members are also believed to have sustained minor injuries. They too received medical attention.

Lukwe‚ who runs a creche opposite the station‚ recounted her emotions after witnessing her second train accident.

Over 100 commuters sustained injuries ranging from minor to serious on Tuesday September 4 2018 after two trains collided while travelling on the same track.

"I was shocked when I heard a huge bang and I quickly ran to the scene‚ to help these people‚" she told TimesLIVE.

The Eastern Cape-born Lukwe said she had previously seen a train accident in which people died‚ citing this one as a relief. "I am just glad no one died‚ I did everything in my power to assist them get out of the trains‚ gave some school kids water and walked them to the taxis‚" said Lukwe.

Walter Kunene‚ who stays opposite the station‚ said: "It was around 6am when I looked through the window and saw the accident. I was scared of getting closer because trains are dangerous.

"I tried calling the ambulance and ran out of airtime... eventually people came out to help them‚" he added.

Goodman Matampi‚ acting provincial manager at Gauteng Metrorail‚ said: "The accident is regrettable and happened while the trains were authorised manually in the section due to a signalling upgrade programme that is under way.”

In January‚ the Railway Safety Regulator of South Africa (RSR) briefly banned Prasa from using manual signalling for trains anywhere in the country‚ under threat of criminal penalties.

The regulator accused Prasa of gambling with thousands of commuters’ lives by using cellphones to communicate during manual authorisations of trains.

After a marathon session of meetings in the following days‚ the regulator lifted the prohibition directive. Prasa’s Sipho Sithole was quoted as saying at the time that rail infrastructure was constantly being attacked “by thieves who continue to damage signal infrastructure by stealing cables and signalling equipment”‚ and so it was almost impossible to avoid using manual authorisations.

The ban was a response to a crash in Germiston in January‚ when at least 200 people were injured when one train was authorised to be stationary but another Metrorail train carrying commuters on the same track hit it from the back. Also in January‚ 19 people died when a Shosholoza Meyl train collided with a truck in Kroonstad.

On Tuesday morning‚ a Metrorail team was on the scene to establish the exact sequence of events leading up to the accident.

"The cost of the accident damages is still unknown at this stage‚" said Prasa's Mofokeng.


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