Pretoria – Seven members of the same family were burnt beyond recognition in a fiery car wreck on the N1 between Petroport and Wallmansthal on Friday.
The dead included four adults and three minors, the youngest aged just 18 months.
Initial reports had indicated that only two people died in the accident, which happened at about 11am. However, more bodies were discovered as rescue officers worked through the wreckage.
Two trucks and nine motor vehicles were involved in the horrific accident. All the vehicles were gutted by the blaze.
It was mayhem at the scene for most of the afternoon with debris, glass and metal scattered all over the road, while emergency personnel relentlessly attempted to put out the fires.
At the same time, pathologists were working their way through the burnt and severely squashed cars to retrieve the bodies. Numerous beer packs which were from one of the delivery trucks lay scattered on the ground. It took eight hours to clear the scene.
Tshwane Emergency Services spokesperson Charles Mabaso said the accident may have been caused by poor visibility because of grass fires in the area. The grass on both sides of the road had been set alight and smoke clouded the road, he said.
A taxi driver who parked on the side of the road said he saw the tragedy coming. “The visibility was terrible and hence I decided to stop on the side of the road. My passengers started complaining and coughing and I was forced to stop. Just a few minutes after we had stopped, we heard a thump and tyres screeching followed by a huge flame.”
Various emergency services were deployed to the accident scene. Authorities said 15 other people who had minor injuries were treated on the scene. Seven who sustained major injuries were taken to various hospitals in the vicinity.
According to Tshwane Metro Police Department spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba, the family members who died were travelling in a Toyota Avanza.
The Avanza was trapped underneath a truck. One truck was completely burnt out while firemen managed to extinguish the fire in the second.
Traffic was badly affected in the area as motorists tried to find their way around the scene. The N1 was closed in both directions between Pumulani Plaza and Wallmansthal. Traffic on the N1 North was diverted to N4 Doornpoort off-ramp, while the traffic from N1 South was diverted to the Wallmansthal off-ramp. Motorists were forced to use the R101 which was also backed up.