Johannesburg - Just moments before the Metrobus that ploughed into a pedestrian and killed three other people rolled down Republic Road, the driver had abandoned it to get help.
At about 3.45pm on Monday, bus number 6007 - which had no passengers - experienced a breakdown while travelling along Republic Road in Fontainebleau, Randburg.
“The bus operator reported the matter to our controlroom seeking assistance at about 4.10pm, due to the traffic congestion at the time. Our recovery vehicle that was meant to assist was unable to reach the scene on time,” Metrobus said on Tuesday.
Sensing the gravity of the mechanical fault, the driver left the bus unattended to seek help from the Roodepoort bus depot.
“According to the bus operator, he engaged the braking system at the time he left the bus,” the company said.
But, at about 4.30pm, the unattended bus rolled down the road for over 900m - eventually ploughing into a pedestrian who had been standing on a pavement and later plunging into a stationary taxi which was offloading passengers.
A total of eight people were injured - three critically.
Joburg metro police spokeswoman Inspector Edna Mamonyane said investigators who were dispatched to the scene were still examining the possibility of foul play and looking at the roadworthiness of the vehicle.
Metrobus managing director André van Niekerk said police were “baffled” by how it could have happened. “The driver pulled off at a bus stop (out of the traffic) and waited 20 minutes.
“The handbrake and everything was on,” he said, sending condolences to the families.
Nico de Jager, the DA’s transport spokesman in the city of Joburg, said that in all probability air in the brakes was released, and that’s how the bus had rolled away.
“There was definitely a technical problem and of course we need to investigate it, because the loss of life is a serious problem,” he said. “The city has been promising us new buses and we still haven’t seen those buses.
“We are dealing with an ageing fleet… I am deeply concerned about the technical aspect of this. I do not believe it is the driver who made the mistake. It is definitely a technical issue.”
Metrobus said it would be in touch with the families of the people who died and those injured to assist them.