October 30, 2005

Positivity: Two Passenger Trains in South Africa Collide Head-on, and No One Dies

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:05 am

Rescue workers are astounded:

De Aar – Stunned rescue workers could only shake their heads in disbelief at the fact that nobody was killed in the collision between the Blue Train and the Shosholoza Meyl on Wednesday night at Deelfontein station near De Aar.

The Shosholoza (the Trans Karoo), according to rescue workers, collided head-on with the Blue Train at a speed of between 50 and 70km/h when the two trains met on the same line, apparently because of a wrong or malfunctioning signal.

The Blue Train was waiting at Deelfontein between De Aar and Beaufort West for the Shozoloza to pass when the accident occurred.

The impact of the collision pushed the Blue Train’s locomotive underneath the coach immediately behind it.

According to railway technicians the driver of the Shosholoza, Louis Kriel, saw at the last moment that the points had thrown his train onto the same track as the stationary Blue Train.

Driver trapped

He instinctively hit the emergency brake.

He and his assistant then ran towards the back of the locomotive down the corridor to get away from the point of impact.

In the cab of the Blue Train the assistant driver also saw that a collision was inevitable and jumped from the locomotive before impact, one official said.

He did not want to be named.

But the driver, Piet van der Westhuizen, wasn’t so lucky and was trapped in the mangled remains of the locomotive’s cabin.

He broke his pelvis and rescue workers later had to remove him from the cabin through a gap.

Police rushed to scene

Sophia Jonkers, who lives in the ruin that was the former Deelfontein Station building, said she heard a loud bang before her dog started barking.

“At first I didn’t want to see what was going on but then I saw all the people milling around.” On Wednesday morning Jonkers sat on her porch doing some sewing, while a horde of railway workers and rescue personnel milled around the two trains.

Police officers from Victoria West, Richmond and De Aar rushed to the scene of the accident on Wednesday night to treat the injured and pacify panicked passengers.

The Air Force was called in to help and the most seriously injured passengers were evacuated to hospitals at De Aar, Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Cape Town.

Those with minor injuries and the uninjured had to wait until after daybreak at the accident scene before being transported away in buses.

Spoornet technicians were at the scene quickly but had to wait for most of Thursday while one helicopter after the other brought inspection teams in from Johannesburg.

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