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Nando Times

Head-on train crash kills four in South Africa

By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (November 7, 2000 8:47 p.m. EST - Four people were killed and 106 injured in the head-on crash of two passenger trains late Tuesday afternoon, police said.

The two Metrorail trains apparently were traveling toward each other on the same track and collided about 4:30 p.m. in Wadeville, an industrial area south of Johannesburg, Superintendent Andy Pieke told The Associated Press.

"There's one coach on top of the other, so it's really difficult at this stage to determine what may have happened," he said.

Of the injured, two were in critical condition and were airlifted by helicopter, Pieke said. Thirteen were in serious condition and the remainder had minor injuries.

Those killed were the trains' drivers and two female passengers, Inspector Amanda Viljoen said.

"Our prayers are with the families and relatives of the victims, and we wish those in hospital a speedy recovery," South African Transport Minister Dullah Omar said.

Provincial Transport Minister Khabisi Mosunkutu said the efforts of the emergency workers had kept the number of deaths low.

Rescue workers had searched the trains to see if people were trapped inside, but by late Tuesday night, they stopped looking and brought in cranes to remove the cars. The workers did not expect to find any more bodies, Viljoen said.

"They've gone through everything," she said.

The trains have the capacity to carry hundreds of people, though it was unclear how many were aboard at the time of the accident, Pieke said.

One of the trains was traveling to the Johannesburg suburb of Katlehong, while the other was headed toward the suburb of Elsburg when they collided.

The collision flipped one train on its side and the other was on top of it, angled high into the air. Several train cars were badly damaged.

Although the cause of the crash was not known, two railroad workers responsible for the affected stretch of rail have been suspended, Hendrik van Stryp, the regional manager of Metrorail, told the South African Press Association.

Metrorail said the tracks were being operated manually while a new signaling system was being installed.

The speed limit on the section of the track was 55 mph, but it was unclear how fast the trains had been traveling.

An independent investigation would be launched into the cause of the accident, van Stryp said.

"It looked as if they were driving straight into each other," witness Emmarentia Breedt told SAPA. "The next minute the train from the right flew into the air."

-- Rachel Gibson (, November 07, 2000

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