An astonishing three-vehicle smash involving private emergency responders allegedly racing recklessly in peak traffic to another accident scene yesterday has prompted a multi pronged probe.
The Gardmed and Traumanet medical response vehicles and a Metro Towing car were seen just after 8am hurtling down a straight section of Buffelsfontein Road in Mount Pleasant in convoy.
According to police, the vehicles were racing to an accident at the Sardinia Bay and Link Road intersection, where a bakkie and car had collided.
The responder crash – in which three people were injured – has prompted an investigation by the provincial Department of Health and police, while the traffic department, according to the municipality, is making such emergency vehicle issues an area of focus.
Last month, concerns about reckless private ambulances and tow trucks were raised in an emergency services committee meeting.
Just last week, three pedestrians were killed when a Gardmed ambulance allegedly overtook a vehicle while travelling between Port Alfred and Grahamstown.
In yesterday’s accident, a Metro Towing Audi allegedly rear-ended a Traumanet VW Scirocco response vehicle which then hit the back of a Gardmed Isuzu bakkie, causing it to roll.
“The Metro Towing Audi tried to overtake both the Traumanet car and the Gardmed bakkie,” a motorist, who did not want to be named, claimed.
“But due to oncoming traffic, the towing car had to veer back into the stream of traffic. “As the car veered back into the lane, it hit the back of the Traumanet car, which then rear-ended the Gardmed bakkie.”
“The bakkie rolled across the oncoming lane and into the perimeter wall of a townhouse complex.”
Another motorist, who saw the re – sponse vehicles pass before they crashed, said they had been travelling at such speed that pedestrians on the pavement had to lean back.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg confirmed the accident.
“An investigation is under way and a criminal case of reckless and negligent driving has been opened,” she said.
Shortly after the accident, furious motorists drove past the scene, expressing their anger. Eugene Muller, who was taken to St George’s Hospital, was driving the Gardmed bakkie, while Wesley Bester, who injured his wrist, was in the Traumanet vehicle.
Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said law enforcement was not aimed at a specific industry.
“When caugh transgressing, the emergency vehicles are being dealt with the same way as any other transgressors,” he said.
“From time to time we check compliance and whether the ‘emergencies’ they are rushing to are real. “With the increased visibility of traffic law enforcement that has started in the city for a month and a half now, this will be one of the areas of focus.”
Metro EMS operations manager Ashwell Botha said he was sending a report on the incident to the provincial health department.
Provincial health spokesman Siyanda Manana said the department’s provincial EMS branch would investigate the accident.
“We will investigate what regulations, if any, have been violated and based on that action will be taken,” Manana said.
Last month, Bay emergency services coordinating committee chairman Thomas Cameron said concerns had been raised about tow trucks and private ambulances driving recklessly.
“I have highlighted this issue with the traffic department and requested their officials to be extra vigilant to lawlessness on the road [by tow trucks and ambulances],” he said.
The private ambulance industry is unregulated at present, meaning there is no industry standard.
Any person or organisation can operate a service. The latest gazetted emergency services regulations signed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in May state that at least one person in a response unit vehicle must hold a minimum of an ambulance emergency assistant qualification.
These regulations have not yet been implemented.
Meanwhile, the three people injured in the accident at the Sardinia Bay intersection were taken to St George’s Hospital for treatment.
They were not seriously injured.