Dump fire causes N2 pile-up

A14-CAR pileup on the N2 yesterday is the biggest in the province this year – and miraculously not a single life was lost.

Seven injured people were extricated from the mangled wrecks that blocked the freeway between Fort Jackson and Berlin after 10am.

Smoke from the smouldering Roundhill landfill site nearby was blamed as it swept across the road, blinding drivers.

But the city deflected the accusation, saying motorists had defied speed laws.

In total, 14 drivers now face charges of reckless and negligent driving after cases were opened at Berlin police station.

Provincial Arrive Alive spokesman Tshepo Machaea said five people were rushed to Frere or Cecilia Makiwane hospitals with serious injuries, while two were admitted with slight injuries.

Injured motorists told the Dispatch the accident was caused by smoke from the tip owned by Buffalo City Metro (BCM).

Metro spokesman Keith Ngesi said: “What happened was very unfortunate.

“However the impact to those vehicles tells you they were travelling at high speed, not keeping to the speed suitable for those conditions.”

Vehicles travelling from East London to King William’s Town were diverted onto the old road from Fort Jackson and those travelling from King to East London were diverted from Berlin.

The N2 remained closed for the better part of the day as emergency personnel worked on removing the wreckage. The road was re-opened just before 5pm.

Meiriri Makika and a passenger were travelling from East London to KWT in his new Navara when it happened.

Makika said he was driving slowly in the slow lane when he lost visibility of the road ahead. “Before I knew it I had crashed into a stationary truck carrying a load of bricks. As I was wondering what had happened I heard a big bang in the other lane.

“The municipality should be held accountable for this accident because had it not been for the smoke coming from their tip this would not have happened and, secondly, knowing very well that the stretch of road is a danger zone traffic officials should have been dispatched to guide motorists.”

Makika has cuts on his hand and leg and was taken to Frere Hospital.

Ronnie Baartman wrote off his employer’s bakkie. “I was hit twice from the back before I collided with the car in front. I saw the thick smoke on Tuesday when I was travelling from Bhisho and I remember telling myself ‘it’s only a matter of time before a big accident happens on this stretch’,” he said.

Bonisile Makati, who was travelling with his pregnant wife, said they were lucky to be alive. Although initially travelling in the direction of Berlin, the force of the smash swung his double cab around to point towards East London.

Ngesi said a traffic vehicle with flashing lights had been stationed close to where the pileup occurred.

“We dispute there were no traffic officers on site. Way before the accident happened I personally called the chief traffic commander to inform him about the smoke encroaching the N2. He told me he had from the site and that traffic officers were on their way and he saw them positioning themselves, redirecting traffic and calming it.”

Ngesi said vehicles had ignored the official vehicle parked on the island with its blue lights flashing. “We are glad there were no fatalities,” said Ngesi.

He said a fire broke out at the Roundhill site on Monday and the metro was working around the clock to put it out.

Simon Kirk, an attorney who specialises in motor vehicle accident claims, said there was no way the metro could be held liable for the accident.

“One would have to prove they were aware a fire would break out from the tip and cause the smoke to blow over the N2, which is quite impossible,” he said. — zwangam@dispatch.co.za

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