Cape Town - Police are investigating the role two drag racers played in the death of four people on the M5 early on Sunday.
A taxi taking people home from the annual Spring Queen event at the Good Hope Centre, overturned and landed in a ditch. Three women – aged 79, 52 and 50 – and a 29-year-old man died on the scene.
Eleven people, including the driver, were seriously injured.
The three women were a mother and two daughters, all from Parkwood. The police have not released their names.
Traffic Services spokeswoman Maxine Jordan said there were 20 people in the taxi.
The M5 was closed while authorities dealt with the crash. It was re-opened just before 3am.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said they had reason to believe the incident was caused by two cars witnesses said were drag racing at the time.
Law enforcement agencies were studying camera footage and Traut said they would do everything in their power to apprehend the culprits.
The SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), which organises the Spring Queen event, has called on the police to arrest those responsible.
A man who was driving a few hundred metres behind the taxi said two cars came “screaming and weaving through the traffic”.
The man, who did not want to be named, said the two cars were clearly racing: “They were weaving through the traffic at a high speed. When I stopped at the accident, one of the dicing cars had stopped, but then drove off.”
Posting on a traffic site on Facebook, Nurjehan Perin said she and her boyfriend were on the M5 and saw the two cars, a silver Mercedes-Benz and a black and silver Volvo.
She said they pulled off the road, and the two speedsters raced on.
Speaking to the Cape Argus on Sunday, Perin said it had been an extremely traumatic experience. She had seen the two cars in the rear-view mirror. She said they were speeding and moving from lane to lane.
The speeding cars passed the car she was in. The taxi, which was ahead of them, was not speeding, she said. As they were approaching a bend she saw the taxi overturn. People were flung from the vehicle.
Her boyfriend, Charl Krieger, a fireman, pulled over, called emergency services and helped as best he could, she said. Other motorists also stopped to help.
The incident happened just after 1am near the Kenilworth exit. It appeared that the driver lost control of the taxi and it overturned, landing in a ditch.
Traut said police had opened a culpable homicide investigation: “We have reason to believe that it was caused by two motor vehicles which were driving at excessively high speeds, and were possibly dicing at the time. No one has been arrested as yet.”
Nazmia Leite, a spokeswoman for Sactwu, said they were saddened by the loss of life: “We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased, wish the injured a speedy recovery and call for the dicers to be brought to justice as speedily as possible.”
Alida Jones of the Drive More Safely organisation said more than 55 people were killed on South African roads every day. On Sunday was World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, Jones said.