*This article has been updated with the latest death toll that has decreased from 27 to 22. Watch actual footage of the accident as it happened.
KWAZULU-NATAL - Several political parties have sent their condolences to the families of the 22 people who have been confirmed dead in a horror crash involving a truck, four minibus taxis and a car on Field's Hill in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal (see pictures, here)
The death toll is expected to rise. The carnage was caused as the truck crashed into four minibus taxis and a car in Fields Hill, Pinetown. This accident adds to the recent list of fatal crashes that have claimed over 60 lives in the past two weeks. Among the dead were a group of girls who had been travelling back after participating in the Annual Reed Dance in Nongoma, KZN.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has ordered a high-level investigation into the crash, her department said in a statement. Peters extended her condolences to the families and friends of those who died and wished the survivors a speedy recovery, strength and resilience. She would visit them on Friday, her department said. The driver of truck was arrested and charged with culpable homicide and reckless and negligent driving.
The African National Congress said it was saddened by the deaths from the accident.
"Our heartfelt condolences go out to families of the deceased and those injured," said national spokesman Jackson Mthembu in a statement.
"We call on communities where the victims reside to give support and assistance that will help them cope with this tragedy. The South African community must keep these families in their prayers." Mthembu said: "The ANC [in KwaZulu-Natal] is concerned with the growing number of people dying on our roads. We call on law enforcement agencies to work hard in making sure that those who disregard the rules are put behind bars." He said if nothing was done, carnage on the roads would continue to rob people of their lives.
The Democratic Alliance in eThekwini expressed their shock. Leader Zwakele Mncwango offered his condolences to the families of the deceased.
"The DA in eThekwini believes that law enforcement agencies must be given space to investigate the cause of the incident. The DA joins in mourning the loss of these loved ones with those affected and the broader city of Durban during this trying and difficult time."
KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate spokeswoman Zinhle Mngomezulu said that the Pinetown accident occurred when the brakes failed on a truck belonging to Evergreen Transport. It took the off-ramp from the M13 at the bottom of Fields Hill and crashed into the minibus taxis and car at the intersection with Richmond Road. It came to a standstill about 30 metres from the intersection (see pictures, here).
Bystanders helped paramedics
Paramedics arrived to find people and debris scattered across the scene. Witnesses told them they had seen people flung from the vehicles as they were hit and then dragged by the truck. The eThekwini Fire Brigade used the Jaws-of-life to extract some of the injured and the dead from the mangled wreckage of the taxis. Paramedics roped in bystanders to help hold drip bags for some of the injured.
ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said at least 32 people were injured -- 10 of them critically -- in the Pinetown crash.
Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said most of them were taken to the RK Khan and Inkosi Albert Luthuli hospitals. Botha suggested that the number of dead might initially have been overestimated from the scene, and that the figure could drop. However there was no confirmation of this.
The M13, down Fields Hill in the direction of Durban, was expected to remain closed until Friday morning to allow crash scene investigators to carry out their work.
KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Willies Mchunu, who went to the scene as soon as he heard what had happened, said the truck driver was in police custody for, among other things, reckless driving.
KwaZulu-Natal acting premier Senzo Mchunu said a team was set up on Wednesday to come up with measures to curb road deaths.
- Additional reporting Sapa