On 4th 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 12 carriages caught fire. 21 people were killed and 254 people were injured.
The passenger train carrying 429 passengers collided with a truck on the Geneva station level crossing, around 200 kms south-west of Johannesburg. The witnesses stated that the truck failed to stop at the level crossing. The truck, along with its two trailers was dragged for around 400 metres and a being transported on the train was also crushed by the derailed train.
There were 12 carriages of the train derailed out of which 7 carriages caught fire. Electrical fires snapped during the collision due to which fire caused into the carriages. The first responders were local farmers and farm workers who rushed to the collision site with fire-fighting equipment and began pulling people out of the burning carriages. In the accident, the truck driver survived the collision and tried to flee the scene but was arrested and taken to hospital immediately. According to police, it was manslaughter case against the driver as he was tested negative for alcohol.
The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) is responsible for investigating railway accidents in South Africa. As the train driver described, when seeing the truck on the crossing how he tooted the trains horn and applied the brakes with a realisation and his assistant could do nothing as they were trapped in the cabin. The driver and his female assistant were both badly bruised and suffered neck and head injuries.
Some of the preliminary findings were:
- Train speed indicated it was travelling at 78 km/hr when it struck the truck on a 90 km/hr track.
- Four passengers killed in the collision are recognisable yet unidentified.
- Two of the victim’s gender cannot be identified at this time while the other victims are four girls, eight men and five women.
- Other 15 will be identified by means of DNA testing.
The crash occurred with the train travelling at 78 km/hr at the time of the crash, hitting the second and last trailer of the truck with data indicating the train was not breaking prior to the collision and dragged the trailer 140 metres. The truck driver had not stopped as obliged, ignoring the advanced warning signs and a stop sign and was not compromised by poor visibility.
Based on the final report result points noted were:
- Poor window and door design compromised escape from the coaches, with the windows too narrow to escape and the doors too heavy to open and no emergency exits.
- Vinyl seats and exterior of the train were not entirely fire resistant.
- Inadequate number of fire extinguishers
- Crew had not received safety training for these types of events.
- Passengers received no emergency information prior to travel.
“Frantic search for survivors after South African passenger train collides with truck, killing at least 18 and injuring hundreds”. Agence France-Presse. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018 – via The Daily Telegraph.
“Geneva Station Level Crossing Collision Board of Inquiry Report” (PDF). Railway Safety Regulator. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 January 2019. Retrieved 13 January2019.
“Railway Safety Regulator to release preliminary train crash findings on Monday”. Business Day. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 6 January2018.
“Mop-up operations to resume after deadly Kroonstad train crash”. eNews Channel Africa. Retrieved 5 January 2018.