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Watch: Town Hill crash ‘preventable’ - video man tells all

A RUNAWAY coal truck careers down Town Hill, outside Pietermaritzburg, on the N3 after the videographer tried to warn the driver that his brakes were smoking.

A RUNAWAY coal truck careers down Town Hill, outside Pietermaritzburg, on the N3 after the videographer tried to warn the driver that his brakes were smoking.

Published Jul 30, 2022

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Durban - The Durban man who filmed a truck crash on Town Hill this week and whose clip has gone viral said he saw no evidence of law enforcement on his approach to the notorious stretch of road along which heavy vehicles were in long queues.

“I don’t remember seeing any. There may have been someone in a vehicle behind but no one was enforcing the stop-go signs (where trucks are forced to stop before going down Town Hill, at Hilton and near the Peter Brown Road turn-off),” said the 45-year-old man who did not wish to be named.

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“It could so easily have been prevented.”

The runaway coal truck causes a massive accident on Town Hill outside Pietermaritzburg. PLEASE NOTE: Video contains strong language

The motorist suggested that had law enforcers been present, and if the truck driver had jumped the queue, they could have stopped him.

“I was trying to attract the driver’s attention to pull over as his brakes were smoking slightly,” he said.

“The traffic in front was too far away for me to warn them. It was after a second stop-go that his brakes started to smoke badly. That is when I pulled back and started to film.”

He added the coal truck in question had ample opportunity to get off the road – once between a gap between trucks; and another occasion at a point where trucks are diverted into the left lane; and, then again at the arrestor bend just before the N3 takes a steep descent through Pietermaritzburg’s suburbs.

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“It just shouldn’t have been there,” he said, referring to when it was careering down the hill.

Road construction has impacted on the N3 at Town Hill, where numerous lives have been lost recently in crashes, as well as historically.

The motorist said he used the country’s roads a lot and was fed-up with the obstacles that trucks posed, such as occupying the fast lane by overtaking other slow trucks at 80km/h.

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“It’s not only Town Hill; it’s all over,” he said, adding that Key Ridge was another problematic stretch.

HEADING for trouble…

Once he stopped, he checked up on the truck that had been carrying a tanker. In the mangled mess, he found a man in the cab full of blood. He returned to his vehicle to fetch his first aid equipment and on his return found him seeking help on his cellphone.

He said other people had gathered around the coal truck.

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The motorist, who was returning home from the Free State on Wednesday, also said traffic on the uphill lane escaped being caught up in the crash by a matter of metres.

He said he was surprised at his video clip going viral.

“I thought I would just get the message out to one or two friends.”

He said evidence he could offer to an investigation was all in the video and that police had his details.

Sanral, the parastatal responsible for the management, maintenance and development of South Africa’s proclaimed national road network, blamed the recent spate of accidents on driver recklessness and non-compliance with road signage.

“The advanced high visibility warning and speed restriction signage requires heavy vehicles to travel at not more than 40km/hr within the construction zone,”said Dumisani Nkabinde, Sanral’s Eastern Regional manager.

“Apart from these restrictions, it is also mandatory for all heavy vehicles to undergo a compulsory stop before proceeding down the steep south bound carriageway.

“It appears that trucks do not adhere to the road signs. Sanral has engaged the relevant traffic authorities regarding enforcement and there is more presence of the RTI. “

Nkabinde pointed at brake failure as a possible cause.

THE crash happening before the motorist’s eyes on Town Hill.

“But there is an arrestor bed in place for trucks to manoeuvre into with adequate signage. Brake failure should not be a cause of heavy vehicles losing control on the descent after the compulsory top as all trucks should be engaged in lower gear and not be using their brakes.

“In addition, the volumes of heavy vehicles, especially those carrying bulk freight like mining material, has substantially increased on the N3 due to challenges with the rail network. This is therefore compounding the situation at Town Hill with the very long truck queues that extend up to Cedara on certain days of the week.”

Road Transport Inspectorate spokeswoman Zihle Mngomezulu said: “Regarding the truck that didn’t stop at the compulsory stop; it wasn’t a disaster, but evidence of how hard we work to educate people who don’t care about their lives and that of others.

MANGLED mess after the truck crashed.

“I am saying this (because) after driving down, he decided to plunge into other cars rather than driving to the arrester bed. This kind of attitude is killing innocent people.”

Road safety is a shared responsibility, she said. “If people don’t care we are still going to have more problems on the roads.

“Facilities are there but they are being ignored by unscrupulous motorists. We prosecute and we are touted as bad people but that won’t stop us from doing our work,” she said.

“Don’t ask what we are doing about it… road safety is a shared responsibility.”

There was no response to requests for comment from the provincial Transport MEC.

The Independent on Saturday

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