Cape Town - The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) will have to cough up to cover damages a commuter suffered when he fell from a moving train whose doors weren’t closed, between Heideveld and Nyanga in 2019, the Western Cape High Court has ruled.
Commuter Siyamthanda Maphela made a claim of R3.5 million from Prasa for negligence after he described in his claim that he was struck by a stone thrown by an unknown person through the open doors of the carriage of the train upon which he was a fare-paying passenger and the incident caused him to fall from the moving train.
He suffered a right frontal decompressed fracture of the skull and blunt trauma injuries to his upper and lower body.
Prasa, however, denied the particulars of the claim and liability and submitted that Maphela “contributed to the negligence”.
At the time of the incident, Maphela was a Grade 10 pupil who had travelled home by train along the central line with his friend.
“(Maphela) testified that the train, which he boarded at Mutual station, was packed and overcrowded. After boarding, he stood facing the open door of the carriage. There was no place to be seated, there were no windows in the carriage and people stood on either side of him. The train left Mutual station with its carriage doors open. While en route, the plaintiff felt something striking or hitting the right side of his forehead. He does not know what struck him. He regained consciousness in Groote Schuur Hospital. He explained that he was struck while the train was travelling between Heideveld and Nyanga stations, and that as a result of the incident, he sustained an injury to his head and did not return to school for the remainder of the 2019 academic year,” the judgment read.
Maphela’s friend who had travelled with him that day corroborated his evidence.
The witness for Prasa, who conducted an investigation of the incident, submitted that his investigation “indicated two scenarios: either the plaintiff had fallen from the train or he had not”.
According to his investigations, as set out in Exhibit B, “there was no evidence nor record of stones having been thrown at the train” despite an occurrence book entry which recorded that “an unknown caller had reported seeing someone lying next to the railway tracks”.
Acting Judge Mas-udah Pangarker found: “A young learner fell from a train and the disquieting lack of care and interest in the safety of commuters such as the plaintiff continued.
The plaintiff’s claim on the merits is upheld. The defendant is 100% liable for the plaintiff’s proven damages.”
Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda said: “Prasa will be in a position to comment and chart a way forward once the legal department has studied the decision of the court.”