The trailer with the coffins of 16 adults and 26 stillborns on the M1 highway. The bodies were being moved from the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital to the Olifantsvlei cemetery in Eldorado Park for burial when one of the trailer’s wheels dislodged. Picture: Itumeleng English/ ANA

Johannesburg - The owner of the trailer that crashed on the M1 South while carrying 42 corpses for pauper burials claims she was misled by the funeral parlour.

The shocking incident which took place on Wednesday morning near Newtown brought traffic to a standstill as police, forensic and JMPD officers carried out an investigation at the crash site.

Their work lasted until 5 pm when forensic pathology removed the bodies.

The trailer had been carrying 16 adult corpses and 26 stillborn babies from the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital to the Olifantsvlei cemetery for paupers’ burials in Eldorado Park when it lost one of its wheels.

One of the passengers, who declined to be named, was a 61-year-old man who said he had been working for the Soweto-based undertaker for three years. There were three passengers in their car.

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He said they took all the necessary precautions by getting all the documentation from Home Affairs and the municipality. Initially, it was thought that he and his co-workers did not have the documents to transport the bodies.

“We almost died and I am still in shock The trailer’s wheel came off and the car almost capsized to the other side of the bridge. We have done this before but the authorities said we do not have documentation, how could we have possibly stolen bodies from the hospital.”

The furious and emotional driver showed documents and even went on to ask: “Would I be able to steal the bodies from a hospital?”

The father of four said he was even more frustrated because while the scene took place at 9.45am and the graves had already been dug, police arrived four hours later. His own child had been hospitalised with a blood clot in his head.

The owner of the trailer was angry to hear that the funeral parlour had lied to her.

Thandiwe Patience Gaba, who runs her trailer-hire business in Pimville, Soweto, said the parlour had hired the trailer on Tuesday evening.

Gaba was under the impression that he needed it to transport empty coffins.

“I didn’t know he wanted it to carry bodies. He should have been straight with us and asked to use the bigger trailer,” Gaba told The Star on Wednesday.

Picture: Itumeleng English / ANA

She said one of the parlour employees arrived at her house on Wednesday afternoon looking for replacement tyres and nuts and did not reveal they had been transporting bodies when the accident happened. It was not the first time she had done business with the parlour.

The JMPD alleged that the driver did not have any documentation to prove that they were a registered mortuary or hospital documents to move the bodies.

Public Safety MMC Michael Sun said the way the bodies were being transported was questionable. “The manner in which the bodies were transported was neither dignified nor hygienic. We call upon the provincial Department of Health to conduct a full investigation and also the SAPS to further investigate to ensure there was no foul play.”

Dr Medupe Modisane, acting chief executive of the Forensic Medical Services, said it was an unfortunate incident and their department was waiting for the SAPS to arrive in order to clear the scene.

He confirmed that the corpses would be taken back to the hospital to be transported and buried properly.

Modisane added that the vehicle would be investigated as it appeared unroadworthy.

The Star