Passenger wins R3.5m damages claim against Prasa

Siyamthanda Maphela fell off train in 2019 after being hit on head by stone

13 June 2023 - 12:06
By Mpho Sibanyoni
A man who was struck by a stone while on a train has successfully sued Prasa for damages. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF A man who was struck by a stone while on a train has successfully sued Prasa for damages. Stock photo.

A passenger who fell from a moving train after he was struck by a rock thrown through open carriage doors has won R3.5m in damages against the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).

Siyamthanda Maphela was injured in March 2019 while travelling from school in Mowbray, Cape Town, with his friend.

The then 17-year-old suffered a right frontal decompressed fracture of the skull and blunt trauma injuries to his body. In hospital he underwent treatment, and suffered shock, pain and loss of amenities of life as well as loss of earning capacity.

Maphela testified in court that the train, which he boarded at Mutual station, was overcrowded and he could not sit.

“After boarding, he stood facing the open door of the carriage. There was no place to be seated, there were no windows in the carriage and people stood on either side of him in a formation he described as 'in a line',” read the court judgment.

“The train left the Mutual station with its carriage doors open. While en route, the plaintiff felt something striking or hitting the right side of his forehead. He does not know what struck him. He regained consciousness in Groote Schuur Hospital.

“He explained that he was struck by the object while the train was travelling between Heideveld and Nyanga stations, and that as a result, he sustained an injury to his head and did not return to school for the remainder of the 2019 academic year.

“When the train left Heideveld — [Maphela did not see anyone throwing stones or objects at the train, but he heard the impact of the object as it hit him against his forehead. When he was discharged from Groote Schuur Hospital, he was informed by his friend that he had been struck by a stone thrown at the train] — the plaintiff stated that he did not know if anyone else on the train had also been struck by an object.”

Maphela’s friend Aphelele Tsibiyani testified that after seeing stones were being hurled through the open train doors, he could no longer see his friend.

Tsibiyani, according to the court, waited for the train to stop at Nyanga station, where he ran back in the direction of where a person had fallen from the train.

Tsibiyani said he saw Maphela lying unresponsive on the track and bleeding from his forehead.

Prasa’s investigator Thando Klaas testified that the occurrence book indicated that at 4.16pm on March 1 2019 an unknown caller had reported that while he was on the train to Khayelitsha, he saw the body of a person lying next to the railway tracks between Heideveld and Nyanga stations.

“The further entry at 9.05pm under the same serial number recorded that security officers were sent to investigate between the two stations and had not found any person lying next to the railway tracks.”

Western Cape High Court acting judge Mas-udah Pangarker described it as shocking that it took five hours for Prasa security guards to probe whether someone was lying on the tracks after the anonymous call was made.

“This conduct is shocking as I wonder what would have happened to the plaintiff had he been travelling without being accompanied by Mr Tsibiyani, who had the concern and foresight to run back to the railway tracks once he realised that his friend was no longer in the train,” she said.

Pangarker said Maphela’s claim on the merits was upheld, Prasa was 100% liable for his proven damages and the state-owned entity was ordered to pay his costs on an attorney and client scale, including the costs of senior counsel.


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