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The vehicle was travelling from Pietermaritzburg when the driver appeared to lose control and overturned near the Merrivale off-ramp.
Thirteen passengers, 10 of whom were sitting in the back of the bakkie, were injured. No other vehicles were involved.
Netcare paramedics took the injured passengers — mostly contracted workers — to St Anne’s, Grey’s, Medi-Clinic and Northdale hospitals. Nine were seriously injured.
Howick police spokesperson Captain Lolly Moodley said he suspected that tyre failure had caused the accident.
A case of culpable homicide would be opened against the driver.
The vehicle’s owner, Wayne Botha, told The Witness he was devastated by the events. “This is the worst thing that can happen to a person. It was really a freak accident. The vehicle had just come back from a dealer service and was mechanically sound. The driver has worked for us for two years and we have never had a problem with him.”
The accident highlights growing concerns about transporting workers on the back of bakkies.
Earlier this year a woman was killed and 11 people injured when a bakkie rolled on the R56 Richmond road near Foxhill.
In 2009 five people were killed when the bakkie in which they were travelling collided head-on with a bus on Old Main Road in Hammarsdale. Also in 2009 six people were hurt on the N3 near Mooi River toll plaza when the rear tyre of a bakkie burst, causing it to roll and flinging out the passengers in the load box.
Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald said yesterday that transporting workers on bakkies or open-backed vans was a social issue.
“A lot of employers transport people in such a manner without realising the potential for danger when things go wrong,” said Roland.
“There have been attempts from the departments of Transport and Labour to try to mitigate the injuries caused during such transportation.”
He said the only way to prevent such accidents was to insist that backs of bakkies have to be fully closed, as happened in Europe.
Transport department provincial spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the matter was being discussed with stakeholders as it was proving difficult to implement “regulations in their current forms … especially in rural areas”.
The department implemented a law forbidding people and work tools or materials being transported in the same section of a vehicle unless the tools or materials were secured.
“We need stricter control of this,” Ncalane said.• firstname.lastname@example.org