Seventeen Die in Another Tragedy By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Seventeen people perished between Grootfontein and Rundu close to midnight on Wednesday in what has been termed the most gruesome accident in terms of the number of deaths this year. Police said the seventeen dead – nine men, five women and three children – were killed when the microbus in which they were traveling hit an NDF cargo carrier being towed by an NDF recovery vehicle which is believed to have swayed into the other lane. Six or seven of the victims are suspected to be Zimbabweans although this could not be confirmed. Crime Regional Commander of the Oshikoto Police Region, Chief Inspector Jan Blaauw, told New Era yesterday the accident happened close to midnight, 12 km from Grootfontein between the town and the Mururani police checkpoint, on the main road to Rundu. The two persons in the NDF recovery truck escaped unhurt. The accident happened some few kilometers away from the other gruesome accident that claimed 28 lives in May 2005. Blaauw described the accident scene as carnage. “It was an ugly site,” he said, adding that their bodies were damaged beyond recognition. Their remains have since been transferred to Otjiwarongo and Tsumeb mortuaries. Although 17 people died, the Windhoek loading master for the minibus, Joseph Dube, said he knew that 17 people departed from the Katutura Hospital loading zone on Wednesday. A family member of a woman who died together with her two children in the accident, Bartholomew Kabula, who works at Rundu Airport, said he was told yesterday afternoon about the death of his cousin, who was on her way to Katima Mulilo. The Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta) President, Magnus Nangombe, who also described the accident as terrible said yesterday he was informed in the early hours of Thursday about the accident. “It is sad that all the people died. It’s terrible,” he said. With experience from the last accident, when a bus collided with a truck, Nangombe called on the government to put measures in place that would restrict the movement of heavy vehicles at night. “Many trucks are involved in accidents and this shows that buses are not a problem,” he said, adding the NDF carrier that was being towed had no lights. This could however not be independently confirmed. He blamed truck drivers for among others not dimming their lights to oncoming vehicles and for driving in wrong lanes, which was one of the main causes of accidents. “We have a problem, we have to try and see how the times they travel can be controlled,” he added. In the meantime, the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVAF) has established the facts of the accident. The MVAF found that the fault was with the driver towing the cargo carrier. The MVAF, according to Technical Adviser to the MVAF, Chris Greenland, will come to the assistance of the affected families by helping with logistics in terms of covering transport costs for the relatives to travel and to identify their loved ones and also to help dependants with loss of support. As for the foreign nationals that died, Greenland said the fund would engage the Zimbabwe Embassy to act as liaison between the families of the victims and the fund. Greenland said the MVAF would assist the families to travel to Namibia to identify their loved ones and also repatriate the bodies. The government yesterday expressed its sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. “This accident follows close on the tragic accident that claimed the lives of four young people at the coast during the past weekend. The government would also like to express its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families who lost their children,” said Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah, yesterday. She noted that many people lost their lives on Namibia’s roads especially during the festive season, calling on Namibians to drive carefully and to keep within speed limits, avoid overloading vehicles and avoid drinking and driving. “Each life is precious and each citizen can contribute to the development of the Namibian nation. Let us all abide by the rules of the road and strive to keep the rest of this holiday accident free,” she said. This morning the MVAF, Office of the Prime Minister, National Road Safety Council, the Police, Roads Authority and other stakeholders will meet to come up with a collective decision on what will happen next.
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