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FOURTEEN people from two families travelling in a commuter omnibus to a funeral in Masvingo died when a haulage truck collided with their vehicle and crushed it in a horrific accident near the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo.
The accident happened at about 10PM on Wednesday.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the accident yesterday. “The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to confirm the fatal road traffic accident which occurred at the 8km peg along the Bulawayo-Gwanda road, where 14 people died and four others were seriously injured.
“The accident involved a South African registered international haulage truck towing two trailers, and a Toyota Hiace minibus that was carrying 18 passengers onboard and a body.
On approaching the said spot, the haulage truck hit a pothole and the driver lost control of the vehicle. He then encroached onto the lane of the oncoming vehicles resulting in a head on collision with the kombi. Thirteen people from the minibus died on the spot, while four others were seriously injured and rushed to United Bulawayo Hospitals,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said.
“Due to the state of our roads, the ZRP is appealing to motorists to avoid travelling at night and observe speed limits to preserve life. As police, we are quite saddened by the unnecessary loss of lives in situations which we could be avoided. Let’s all preserve the sanctity of human life”
Mourners from two families were travelling in the kombi with the body of a 14-year-old boy in a coffin, when the haulage truck coming from the opposite direction allegedly hit a pothole and jackknifed into the oncoming traffic lane.
The truck narrowly missed the kombi but its trailers whipped into the smaller vehicle’s path and dragged it for a distance, before pushing it under the truck.
The truck’s load — tonnes of glass and wooden pallets — crushed the kombi.
The driver of the haulage truck, Mr Lameck Marapira (29), escaped with minor injuries while four people in the kombi survived.
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Thirteen people died on the spot and another died on admission to the United Bulawayo Hospitals where the other three are still admitted.
The other survivor was rushed to Mpilo Central Hospital where he is reportedly in a critical condition.
Mr Marapira, who appeared distraught, said he did not see the pothole as it was filled with water.
“My front wheels locked and I lost control. The truck uprooted a streetlight. I came to a stop against an embankment on a bridge near the scene,” he said.
“The kombi’s lights dazzled me. I didn’t see it and thought I had passed it when I heard a loud bang and screams.”
Mr Marapira said he immediately went to check on what had happened and sought assistance from other drivers and Riverside residents who called emergency services.
The South African registered truck was carrying glass panes to C.H. Naik from the neighbouring country.
Mr Marapira, who is a Bulawayo resident, said he left South Africa on March 6 and it was unfortunate that the accident occurred when he had arrived home.
Bulawayo Chief Fire Officer Mr Richard Petersen said his office received a call at 11:47PM and arrived on the scene at exactly midnight.
“When our team arrived at the scene, the kombi was under the truck. Our crew could not rescue the victims and we had to call for a Nyoni Brothers’ crane to lift the truck,” said Mr Peterson.
Police and the fire-brigade crew battled for more than four hours to extricate the kombi and retrieve the bodies.
Two of the survivors forced their way out of the wreckage.
A majority of residents, who had gathered to watch, shied from the scary sight as the mangled bodies were pulled out and lined up side by side before quickly being covered with blankets.
Most of the bodies were intact except for one which had a missing hand and the fire brigade crew had to look for it in the wreckage.
The coffin had broken into two pieces but the body was intact, still tucked in a blanket covering it.
A heap of bodies were laid on a tent and covered in blankets before a police truck collected them later on.
Residents said they alerted the Bulawayo City Council of the pothole more than three weeks ago but no action was taken.
“This pothole is in the middle of a lane. We called council several times but they did not respond… sadly lives have been lost now,” said a resident who only identified himself as Thulani.
A driver from Bakers Inn who plies the Bulawayo-Gwanda route every morning said he had seen it and reported to council but to no avail.
“Just yesterday I was talking about this pothole, I told my assistant that it was very dangerous because at night it would be full of water and most drivers are caught unawares when they plunge into it. Swerving to your right, you risk a head-on because you would be encroaching onto the lane of oncoming traffic,” said the driver.
Traffic from both ends was detoured through Sunninghill suburb as emergency crews retrieved the bodies and carried out investigations. Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle
PHOTO1- Lameck Marapira, driver of the haulage truck