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A Sheltam locomotive similar to that which was involved in the crash.
|Date||4 January 2018|
|Time||09:15 local time (07:15 UTC)|
|Location||Near Kroonstad, South Africa|
|Rail line||Port Elizabeth - Johannesburg|
|Type of incident||Level crossing collision|
On 4 January 2018, a passenger train operated by Shosholoza Meyl collided with a truck on a level crossing at Geneva Station between Hennenman and Kroonstad, Free State, South Africa. The train was derailed and seven of the twelve carriages caught fire. Twenty-one people were killed and 254 people were injured.
At about 09:15 local time (07:15 UTC) on 4 January 2018, a passenger train, operated by Shosholoza Meyl, carrying 429 passengers, was travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg when it collided with a truck on the Geneva Station level crossing, around 200 kilometres (120 mi) south-west of Johannesburg.
Witnesses stated that the truck failed to stop at the level crossing, despite the train driver giving warning by blowing the horn. The truck, along with its two trailers, was dragged for around 400 metres (1,300 ft), and a car being transported on the train was also crushed by the derailed train.
The locomotive hauling the train was Class C30EMP diesel-electric locomotive № 3018, owned by Sheltam. The locomotive and 12 carriages of the train were derailed; seven carriages caught fire. Overhead electrical wires had snapped during the collision, causing the fire.:9 The first responders were local farmers and their workers who rushed to the collision site with fire-fighting equipment and began pulling people out of the burning carriages.:9 Eyewitness and farmer Willie du Preez, said that the fire began 10 minutes after the collision, with the first flames behind the locomotive which spread towards the derailed carriages and trapped passengers.:2 Twenty-one people were killed and 254 were injured. At around 20:50 local time, the search and rescue was called off.
The truck driver survived the collision and tried to flee the scene but was arrested and taken to a hospital. Police have opened a manslaughter case against the driver. The driver of the truck tested negative for alcohol at a police station.:1
Police spokesperson Brigadier Sam Makhele said he believed all human remains had been recovered from the carriages by the afternoon of 5 January, and that forensic workers believed they had recovered the remains of nineteen people.:3 Heavy recovery equipment was brought in by PRASA Rail, two days after the collision, to remove the debris from the crash site so that the railway line could be repaired and reopened.:3 On 7 January, the train line was reopened to traffic.
Farmer Willie du Preez said that the road to the level crossing follows the railway line before making a 90 degree turn to the crossing.:3 He claimed that there is a blind spot which prevents one, for a moment, from seeing on-coming trains as well as potholes in the road that slow vehicles speeds at the crossing.:3 He stated his belief that the truck's cab and first trailer had crossed and the train struck the second trailer.:3
As of 6 January 2018, PRASA had not responded to a question from the Volksblad as to whether the train was speeding, as one passenger claimed he had joined the train when it was two hours late, but that the train had regained an hour at the time of the collision.:3
South Africa's Minister of Transport Joe Maswanganyi announced that an investigation would be launched. Maswanganyi also said that "Police are investigating. The truck driver was taking chances... that cost lots of lives." The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) is responsible for investigating railway accidents in South Africa. The owner of the articulated tipper truck, Cordene Trading, expressed the firm's condolences to the victims and their families through the company's lawyer.:9
The driver described, when seeing the truck on the crossing, how he tooted the trains horn and applied the brakes with a realisation he and his assistant could do nothing as they were trapped in the cabin.:1 The driver and his female assistant were both badly bruised and suffered neck and head injuries.:1
In a preliminary finding, the RSR's investigation of the train's speed indicates that it was travelling at 78 km/h when it struck the truck on a 90 km/h track.:1 Only four of the passengers killed in the collision are recognisable but still remain unidentified.:2 Two of the victim's gender cannot be identified at this time while the other victims are four girls, eight men and five women.:2 The other fifteen will be identified by means of DNA testing, with the results to be made known by 19 February.:2
On 26 January 2018, PRASA announced that the DNA testing of the remains were completed and the results would be made known to the relatives of the victims at a gathering at the Virginia Council Chambers, Free State.:8 PRASA would also be providing government assistance for burials.:8