Bakkie driver accused of culpable homicide

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Copy of ND MOOIRIVER 24 (41885353) DAILY NEWS The bakkie was hauled out of the sludge dam by a crane. It was retrieved about 15 minutes after the last body was found and hoisted out on a stretcher. Picture: Marilyn Bernard

Durban - The driver of the bakkie that plunged into a sludge dam, resulting in the deaths of five schoolchildren, has appeared briefly in the Greytown Magistrate’s Court.

The State indicated on Wednesday that it was opposed to Phelelani Mchunu, 24, being granted bail and the case was adjourned to next Wednesday. Mchunu will stay in custody.

According to the incomplete charge sheet, he faces five counts of culpable homicide.

However, Colonel Jay Naicker said police were also investigating charges of murder, attempted murder and reckless and negligent driving.

The accident happened on the D532 road between Mooi River and Greytown on Monday.

Thirty children, seated on the back of the bakkie, were being taken to school. The driver allegedly lost control of the vehicle and it ploughed through a wire fence before landing in the dam. The survivors were treated at the scene and then taken to Greytown Hospital.

The incident prompted Transport Department MEC Willies Mchunu to look into the issue of schoolchildren being transported on the back of bakkies. He said the government would look at introducing a policy that banned pupils from transport of this type.

He also promised to conduct an immediate audit of schools in KwaZulu-Natal to identify the pupils who depended on bakkies, and to prioritise their access to the free pupil transport programme.

A memorial service would be held on Thursday for the five children who died, at Senzokuhle Combined School. MEC for Education Peggy Nkonyeni would attend.

The Mercury

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