Maria Pitso said on Wednesday that she could not believe that she had made a life-and-death decision when she turned down the lift.
Pitso, who was hitch-hiking to Jan Kempdorp on Tuesday night, said that she had declined the lift because she did not want to sit in the back of the bakkie.
All the occupants of the bakkie were killed when it collided with a truck on the N12.
“I knocked off at 6.45pm and was standing at the hiking spot to get a lift home. A bakkie, which had two men in front and some other people in the back, stopped. The man in the passenger seat asked where I was heading and I said I was going to Jan Kempdorp. They said they were on their way to Warrenton, but I turned down the lift because I did not want to sit in the back of the bakkie. The man sitting in the front kept trying to convince me to get in but I refused. They then drove off leaving me behind,” Pitso said.
She said that five minutes later another car stopped and she got a lift.
“The bakkie was not far ahead of us. There was a truck in the lead, followed by the bakkie and another car, and we were the fourth vehicle behind the truck.
“Suddenly, I looked up and just saw the bakkie crashing into the truck. The truck dragged the bakkie to the side of the road and there was dust and gravel everywhere.
“The driver of the car wanted to stop immediately but I told him that we could cause a chain accident and instructed him to drive further along to a safer spot.”
The vehicle Pitso was travelling in stopped about 5km from the scene of the accident.
“I ran to the accident. There was a badly injured woman lying in the middle of the road. She had been thrown out of the bakkie during the impact. The canopy of the bakkie was also off.” she said.
According to Pitso, the driver of another truck was standing next to the woman.
“According to him, a car drove over her after she fell out of the bakkie. The woman had a broken leg and had severe injuries. I attended to her, but one could see the pupils of her eyes had dilated. One of the paramedics from Emerg-G-Med also tried to put a tube in her to help her breath, but she died on the scene.”
Pitso described the accident as the worst incident she had ever experienced.
“It was evident that there was nothing that could have been done to save the passengers in the bakkie. There were two people seated in the front of the bakkie, two others were lying under the bakkie and another person was lying near the wheel of the truck.”
She said that two women, who appeared to have been in the truck, were crying.
“They sustained light injuries and complained of neck and back pain. The women and the driver were transported to Kimberley Hospital for medical attention,” Pitso said.
She added that she immediately called her office and informed them about the accident.
“Two ambulances, a response vehicle and a rescue vehicle were dispatched. Emergency services from Emerg-G-Med, who were transporting a patient from Hartswater to Kimberley, came upon the scene and assisted. They gave me gloves as I had no emergency supplies with me because I had already knocked off work.”
Pitso indicated that she still could not believe the entire incident had transpired in front of her.
“I only got home after 10pm. The road was closed for about two hours. The driver of the car I was travelling in fortunately waited for me to finish. Various emergency services including the fire brigade, police and traffic officials were on the scene.”
Pitso, who hitch-hikes to Jan Kempdorp daily, said she could not tell her mother the real reason why she arrived home so late.
“My mother asked why I was so late but I just said that the road was closed due to an accident. I did not tell her the details as I know she will worry. I have to hike to Jan Kempdorp daily as I am still struggling to get a transfer to Kimberley. My mother will be very worried to hear that it could have been me in that vehicle.”
She said that it was not clear whether the people in the bakkie were related.
“The people in the bakkie were relatively young. The woman who was lying in the road looked a bit older. A Sassa card and other belongings were scattered on the scene. It appeared that she might have also hitch-hiked to Kimberley but it is not certain. The two women in the truck indicated that they had received a lift from Warrenton to Kimberley from the truck driver.”
Pitso conceded that hitch-hiking was not the safest option but added that she had no other choice to get home.
This is the second time I have seen people die in front of me. I saw my husband die in front of me and now I also had to see these people die. It is so sad. It is only a miracle that I was not one of the deceased. I can, however, not let this scare me as I have to travel this road every day to get home,” she said.
The spokesperson for the provincial emergency services, Starlin Kok, said that they received the call from Pitso about the incident just after 7.30pm.
“We had seven paramedics on the scene and they worked for about two hours. Three passengers from the truck were transported to Kimberley Hospital Complex for observation after they suffered light injuries. The road was reopened to traffic at about 21.20pm,” he said.
The spokesperson for Emerg-G-Med medical services, Andrè Keyser, said the ages of the deceased were unknown due to the severity of the injuries.
“It is not clear what ages the deceased were. We also do not know whether they were related,” said Keyser.
He also warned commuters to adhere to the rules when at an accident scene.
“Commuters who are driving past an accident scene or who are on the scene, should give paramedics space to conduct their work. Paramedics have mere seconds to attend to those injured and it makes the task more challenging when community members are in the way or want to take pictures of the scene. Community members should adhere to the rules of officials on the scene and not interfere with the scene or try to get close in order to identify those involved in an accident,” Keyser said.
Police spokesperson, Captain Olebogeng Tawana, confirmed the incident.
“Windsorton police are investigating a case of culpable homicide, following a head-on collision which involved a truck and an Opel Corsa bakkie. The accident happened on Tuesday night at approximately 7.40pm, just 35 kilometres outside of Kimberley. All six occupants of the bakkie were declared dead on the scene. The truck driver and two women, believed to have been travelling with him in the truck, were transported to the local hospital to receive medical treatment.
“The emergency and rescue personnel had to use the Jaws of Life to free the bodies from the wreckage of the bakkie. The bakkie was trapped with its occupants under the truck.
“The investigation continues,” said Tawana.
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