Reed dance crash probe drags on

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iol news pic reed dance maidens DAILY NEWS Zulu maidens attend the royal reed dance in Nongoma. The maidens present their reeds to the king as part of the annual reed dance at eNyokeni traditional royal house. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Durban - FIVE months after the reed dance bus crash, the police have yet to finalise their investigation. The crash claimed the lives of nine maidens and two minders returning home from the annual event at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s eNyokeni Palace in Nongoma.

Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said a statement had been obtained from the driver, who was among the injured who had been taken to Eshowe Hospital.

He said statements had also been obtained from the survivors, except for Badelisile Myende and Bathabile Sithole – whose daughter Ntokozo was killed. They had not been interviewed by the police, he said.

Until last week, the police maintained that the bus driver, from Port Shepstone, was still in hospital.

But late last year, the Daily News reliably learnt that the driver had been discharged two days after the crash.

A 23-year-old man was behind the wheel when the bus overturned on the R66 in Melmoth on September 1.

He was a substitute driver. The police found that the original driver had been under the influence of alcohol.

Zwane said the original driver had been arrested and had appeared in the Nongoma Magistrate’s Court. The case was withdrawn pending his alcohol blood test results.

He was an employee of Malundi Excursions, which owned the 11 buses hired by the uMzumbe Municipality to transport maidens from the South Coast town to the reed dance.

Malundi owner, Shikar Singh, speaking a few months ago, said that the driver had not returned to work. He has since been unwilling to comment further on the crash.

Royal spokesman, Prince Mbonisi Zulu declined to comment on the investigation saying it was in the hands of police.

Zwane said some of the post mortems and other reports were still outstanding.

Department of Transport spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, said they wanted the investigation finalised as soon as possible so that families could find closure and if human error was involved, those responsible brought to book.

He said their part was technical; a forensic investigation had been completed. He could not comment on the findings.

Asked why he would not comment on the findings in this crash when details of the Fields Hill crash had been made public by his department, Ncalane said this case was different.

During the Field’s Hill crash, a truck ploughed into four taxis and two cars and more than 20 people were killed. Ncalane said in that case a forensic investigator had been at the scene and concluded that faulty brakes were the cause of the crash

He said a forensic report on the reed dance bus crash had been handed to the police.

Zwane said “The investigation will be completed soon and a docket will be taken to court for decision.”

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