In a crash investigation report, compiled by Warrant Officer Spencer Roberts of the Pietermaritzburg Crash Investigating Unit, it was found that a tyre blow-out was the cause of the accident, clearing the driver and the well-known bus company of any faults.
The crash, which took place on the N3 highway between Hilton and Pietermaritzburg, claimed the life of 16-year-old Themba Dloti.
He and his team of players, coaches and teachers were on their way to play soccer at Kearsney College when the accident occurred in September last year.
According to initial reports, the driver said there had been a loud bang that caused the bus to overturn.
In his report, Roberts said that on investigation of the wheels and tyres, none of the tyres had showed any signs of being operated in an “abusive or under-inflated manner”.
He reported that there was also no indication of harsh braking present on the thread surfaces.
“The right front tyre was deflated and severely damaged. The tyre showed signs of a blowout. All the tyres had adequate tread depth and were in a good operational condition prior to the crash,” Roberts recorded in his investigation report.
He concluded that as there was tread separation and extensive damage to the right front tyre, “this tyre was a tyre blow-out, and tread separation did occur”.
The tyre and the wheel had also been sent to the engineering section of the Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria for a detailed analysis of the tyre failure.
“After conducting an in-depth investigation into all the crucial components (steering system, braking system, chassis and body) of the vehicle, I am of the opinion that no mechanical defect caused or contributed to the accident. The severe tyre damage to the tread surface indicated that the tyre had a blow-out,” read the report.
According to Roberts’s report, the only reasonable explanation for the tyre blow-out was that the vehicle must have hit a pothole at some stage that led to the damage of the tyre on the inside, which was not visible from the outside.
“With continuous use of the tyre over a prolonged period, the tyre flexed beyond its elastic limits, allowing the air to force itself between the tread surface and the cords in the tyre carcass and eventually causing the tread surface to separate from the carcass,” Roberts recorded.
Dev Maharaj, an attorney representing Maharaj’s Coaches, said the bus company prided itself on operating a business where the roadworthiness of its vehicles and reliability of its drivers were paramount in rendering a safe, professional and efficient service.
He said it was little wonder that the official findings had exonerated the company, and added that Maharaj’s Coaches had also reviewed its operations and put additional measures in place to further minimise the risk of any accidents occurring.