Taxi mows down teens

A policeman inspects the minibus taxi believed to have ploughed through a crowd of children who were having a party in Zwide.
Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

Driver sought after hit-and-run at huge end-of-term street party leaves three dead, five injured

An end-of-term party attended by about 1 000 youngsters – most of them schoolchildren – ended in mayhem, when a minibus taxi ploughed into the crowd in Zwide in the early hours of yesterday, killing three of them.

The deadly hit-and-run, which also left five injured, happened about 200 metres from the popular Eyethu Sports Bar at the corner of Spondo Street and Njoli Road at about 1.30am.

The minibus thought to have been involved, which was meant to have been parked for the night, had allegedly been used without the owner’s knowledge.

The taxi owner has asked police to help him track down the driver.

The badly damaged vehicle was found abandoned in Bethelsdorp later.

Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said two girls, aged between 13 and 17, died on impact and a teenage boy died in hospital.

None of them had identity documents on them.

The girls’ names have not been released yet as they will only be formally identified by their next of kin today.

The boy has been named as Siyasanga Adoni, thought to be 19 or 20 years old.

“One of [Adoni’s] friends who was with him at the party assisted in identifying him,” Beetge said.

Dora Nginza Hospital accident and emergency unit head Dr Ebenezer Oluwole said six of the crash victims had been brought in and one of them, Adoni, was declared dead on arrival.

“The others, a 22-year-old woman, who has not been named yet, Likhona Fokazi, 14, and Yamkelani Fokazi, 13, were all treated, sent for X-rays and discharged,” he said

A 19-year-old girl, Anda Sikweyiya, who suffered a severe pelvic break, was first taken to Dora Nginza and then sent to Livingstone Hospital for emergency surgery.

Another girl, Sinomtha Mlatebe, 13, was also referred to Livingstone Hospital for further treatment.

Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said Sikweyiya was still in a critical condition late yesterday.

The group of party-goers was so large that reinforcements from the public order policing unit, which usually deals with riots, had to be called in to assist at the scene.

Officials described the incident as chaotic, with the revellers only starting to leave at about 5am.

Police top brass have called for a probe into the incident and into the practice of underage drinking outside the club.

“About 1 000 children, mainly teenagers, had gathered outside the club as part of a ‘pens down’ party,” Beetge said.

“They were drinking and partying from late on Saturday night.

“It would appear that many had been denied access to the club because they were too young.

“This led to a massive party outside.”

The organisers of the event were still unknown and it was thought that the pupils had brought their own alcohol.

Beetge said about 50 minibus taxis had ferried the youngsters to the club, where the taxis then blocked the road.

“During this party, a white Quantum minibus drove through the crowd of children,” Beetge said.

“The minibus continued to speed off after the accident.”

Witness Yolanda Katele, 17, of Bethelsdorp, said she had arrived at the bash with a group of friends shortly before the accident.

A shaken Yolanda said it happened very quickly and without any warning.

“There was a group of people standing not too far away from me when I saw this car speeding down the road,” she said.

“It didn’t slow down and it hit one of the girls, and then I saw it hit three more people.

“Two other people ran to help and were knocked over too.”

According to Yolanda, the taxi showed no signs of slowing down before or after ploughing through the crowd.

Xabiso Ndwaya, 16, also from Bethelsdorp, said he arrived at about midnight.

“I didn’t see what happened but I heard the noise,” he said.

“People were shouting so I went to see what happened. There was lots of blood and people with broken bones.”

Masibulele Beyi, 18, said he caught a glimpse of the vehicle.

“It was a white taxi. I saw the number plate and gave the details to the ambulance people.”

All three said they had not given statements to the police but had passed on information to paramedics on scene.

Beetge said the owner of a minibus taxi had arrived at the Kwazakhele police station at about 11am yesterday, saying he suspected his vehicle had been involved in the accident and that the driver could not be reached. The minibus was found in Qhagquwa Street, Bethelsdorp, at about 1pm, after a tip-off.

Its windscreen, bodywork and bumper were smashed.

The police are now searching for the driver, who is believed to be on the run.

Eyethu Sports Bar owner Zola Tengile said parties in the road near his bar were a common problem.

“It was not on our premises, but in the road about 200m from where we are,” Tengile said.

“I only realised what had happened when I went outside and saw all the ambulances.

“We have tight security and the minors would have been denied entry to the club.”

He said the first weekend of the holidays always saw a massive party at the site.

“Where the incident happened is a taxi pickup and drop-off point.

“Every time schools close, this happens and they have a party close [to the sports bar].”

Motherwell cluster commander Major-General Dawie Rabie, who was at the scene, questioned why children were allowed to have parties where alcohol was consumed.

“Schools and parents must be more proactively involved in the lives of their children, especially when school holidays approach,” he said.

“I have also ordered a full investigation into this accident to track down the driver, who did not even stop after hitting all these children.”

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