A passenger train carrying people home after the holidays slammed into a truck in rural South Africa on Thursday morning, killing at least 20 people and injuring more than 260 others.
Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi says preliminary investigations indicate that the derailment of a Shosholoza Meyl train near Kroonstad in the Free State was caused by a truck crossing a level crossing.
The truck driver allegedly tried to cross the tracks just ahead of the oncoming train, part of which burst into flames after the collision.
“The truck driver was taking chances. He thought that he was going to pass through,” Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi told journalists. “Little did he know that the train was going to hit him. That has cost a lot of lives.”
Addressing reporters at the scene‚ he indicated that the death toll could rise.The train had 429 passengers on board the train which was travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg.
Photos shows part of the Shosholoza Meyl train in flames after the collision that occurred between the communities of Hennenman and Kroonstad in Free State province. The crash derailed half a dozen carriages, and power lines were damaged. A large vehicle was upside down beside a train carriage that appeared to have partly crushed another, smaller vehicle.
The truck driver emerged unscathed from the accident and the train driver and his assistant suffered minor injuries, said Mthuthuzeli Swartz, acting CEO of South Africa’s state-owned passenger rail agency.
Maswanganyi said that the truck driver had been taken to hospital. He said blood tests would be taken to see if he was sober.
He said the driver would also be questioned about his role in the accident
More photos below…