*This article has been updated with new information on the number of deaths which decreased from 27 to 22 dead. Watch actual footage of the accident as it happened.
DURBAN - Democratic Alliance ward councillor Rick Crouch has told eNCA that KZN Transport MEC Willies Mchunu was warned about a possible catastrophe if trucks continued to use Fields Hill where 27 people died on Thursday (see pictures and video, here).
In a statement, Crouch said his party had been fighting since 2009 to have heavy articulated trucks banned from the portion of the M13 known as Fields Hill. The steep 100 metre gradient, the party said, was not suitable in preventing emergency stops from veering out of control.
On Thursday night, a truck slammed into four fully laden minibus taxis and a car, claiming 22 lives. Nineteen people died on the scene, while three others died in hospital. At least 32 people were injured, 10 of them critically so.
On Friday morning, Mchunu expressed his shock and anger regarding the accident. He said the driver was remanded in custody and charged with culpable homicide and reckless and negligent driving. A high-level investigation has been launched.
But Crouch said Mchunu&39;s reaction to the horror crash was "disingenuous".
"A task team was formed in 2012. This team set out to prove conclusively that among other things, Fields Hill was not safe for large trucks to use. This report was summarily dismissed.
“I can assure you that when the news of this accident broke these officials were scurrying like rats to find a dark hole to hide in until they have formulated their spin on the matter which will be put out in their defence. I am very angry at this because we warned them this was going to happen. Those 27 deaths are the responsibility of MEC Mchunu and his department for their failure to act on this very serious issue."
Crouch said residents of the area live in constant fear.
"I cannot tell you how many incidents there have been involving trucks. The residents that live alongside Fields Hill live in constant fear because more than once trucks have gone over the side and landed in someone’s property."
He said this accident could have been prevented.
"No matter what the cause of this accident turns out to be, ultimately it is the fault of the MEC and his Department of Transport because it is our assertion that the truck should not have been allowed to be there."
Crouch reiterated his request.
"I call on the MEC to immediately ban all heavy trucks from using Fields Hill in both directions and force them to use the N3.”
He said the only reason trucks used that portion of the M13 was to bypass the toll booth on the N3 as Fields Hill was an alternative route.
Spokesman for the MEC, Kwanele Ncalana declined to comment when eNCA.com proposed the DA&39;s statement to him.