Ten killed in ‘death road’ crashes

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THE N1 highway remained partially closed late Friday after two trucks collided head-on, killing three people in one of two accidents which left a total of 10 people dead on the section known as death road. Picture: Danie Van der Lith

Cape Town - The N1 highway remained partially closed late on Friday after two trucks collided head-on, killing three people in one of two accidents which left a total of 10 people dead on the section known as “death road”.

The crashes marked a grim start to the festive season with all 10 bodies burnt beyond recognition.

Tens of thousands of motorists are still expected to make their way out of the province as Christmas approaches, raising safety concerns among traffic authorities.

Provincial Traffic Chief Kenny Africa said on Friday that the N1 was closed for most of the day, until part of the wreckage from the two crashes, which occurred within an hour of one another, could be removed from the crash site near Beaufort West. A single lane was then opened at 3.30pm.

The first accident occurred at 3.30am on Friday, and the next at 5am.

In the first, a collision between a bakkie and a minibus taxi

about 14km outside Laingsburg, seven people were killed. The six dead in the bakkie included two adults, two children and two babies. The passenger in the front seat of the taxi also died, while the driver and another passenger were seriously injured and taken to hospital.

In the second crash about 45km from Beaufort West, two trucks collided head-on, sparking a major blaze which raged most of the morning because one truck carried crates of paper. The blaze damaged phone lines and affected landline and cellphone reception.

Both drivers and a passenger in one of the trucks were killed.

Africa said traffic was backed up 17km in both directions, as vehicles were diverted along a farm road.

Meanwhile, traffic authorities have announced that roadblocks will be beefed up across the province, and vehicles will have to undergo safety checks before leaving Cape Town.

Africa told Weekend Argus that traffic officers would adopt a “no-nonsense” attitude.

“There will be high visibility. Traffic officers will be out in full force and do thorough inspections,” he said.

“We will stop and arrest anybody who decides to do excessively high speeds.”

Since December 5, a motorist was arrested on the N2 near Mossel Bay driving at 182k/h in a 120km/h zone, another for driving more than 170km/h in a 120km/h zone, also near Mossel Bay, and another for driving 138km/h in an 80 km/h zone between Beaufort West and Aberdeen.

Africa blamed 80 percent of deaths on the roads on people not wearing safety belts, and warned that drivers would be held responsible if children younger than 14 were not buckled up.

“We will be very strict towards culprits not wearing safety belts,” Africa said.

On Thursday, safety and security mayco member JP Smith launched Operation Exodus, which will continue until Christmas Eve.

He said the exercise would involve 102 traffic officers who would check the fitness of long-distance transport vehicles, and the credentials of drivers leaving the city.

The checks would be done at the city’s public transport interchanges, including Joe Gqabi, Bellville/Parc Du Cap, Mfuleni, Langa, Du Noon, Cape Town station and Epping.

Officers would also check for over-loading, and would ensure that the documentation of all drivers and vehicles were in order before they were allowed to leave.

On Friday Smith was at the Joe Gqabi interchange in Philippi, where he said 10 vehicles were impounded for unroadworthiness during the morning.

“Vehicles first have to be tested before they pick up passengers. The aim is to avoid the carnage between Cape Town and the border of our province,” he said.

However, large bus companies have reported that they have the necessary safety measures in place.

Sharon Oliver, administration manager for Greyhound and Citiliner, said all coaches underwent checks by qualified technicians, including brake testing, before they were allowed to depart.

Coach checks en route were also carried out “to ensure we maintain our safety measures and customer service levels”.

The companies also tracked and monitored all coaches at all times, Oliver said.

Intercape spokesman Danie du Toit said each coach underwent a comprehensive safety check before every departure.

Every driver also had to take a breathalyser test before each trip.

The company instituted its own 95km/h speed limit and 40km/h on mountain passes, Du Toit added, saying that each coach was equipped with a real-time satellite tracking device which allowed for effective monitoring.

Weekend Argus

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