WINDHOEK – Police have identified the seven people, aged between 16 and 23, who died in a crash on the Katima Mulilo-Sesheke highway on Saturday evening.
The deceased are Peter Letu Karipi (21), Mbanga Wendy Mbanga (20), Masuka Given Sibalatani (20), Mwenda Sinvula (20), Leonard Hauwanga (20), Kamwi Alec Siseho (17) and Masule Simataa (17).
The young revelers were travelling back into town from the popular recreational spot ‘Stony City’, where they had ventured to celebrate their end-of-year exams.
On their way back at around 19h00, the driver who is now fighting for his life in the Katima Mulilo state hospital is said to have lost control of the vehicle causing it to overturn after he tried to avoid a head-on collision.
Head of media relations Chief Inspector Kauna Shikwambi said five of the 14 youths involved in the accident died on the spot while two others later succumbed to their injuries in the Katima Mulilo state hospital where they were rushed for treatment.
Seven others who were seriously injured, among them a female, are battling for their lives in the Katima Mulilo and Katutura state hospitals.
Zambezi Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu, urged drivers to be cautious at all times and to refrain from using alcohol when driving in order to avoid accidents.
“We have one of the best road networks in Southern Africa, so one can say that most of the road accidents are a result of negligence on the part of our drivers. We need to drive carefully and respect other road users,” said Sampofu.
He said the curve at which the crash occurred is a high accident-risk zone where many people have already lost their lives.
“I understand that it is the third or fourth accident at that spot in as many years. As the regional council, we had a meeting with the Katima Mulilo Town Council this morning and we decided that a speed hump should be set up near that turn to ensure that people do not go into the [high risk] turn at a high speed,” he revealed.
Sampofu said during the meeting: “We decided that traffic officers need to be on the lookout constantly and set up roadblocks in that area. People mostly come from the Wenela border post or the popular recreational area near the river, nicknamed Stony City.”
Zambezi Police Regional Crime Investigations Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Rudolf Kanyetu said the car had 14 occupants at the time of the accident.
He said the police are still investigating the cause of the accident, but for now it is suspected that the driver lost control of the vehicle.
He said the driver was one of the three victims airlifted to Windhoek on Sunday afternoon.
“According to information reported to the MVA Fund Call Centre, a Toyota pick-up (bakkie) carrying passengers overturned when the driver lost control, allegedly due to speeding. All occupants are reported to have been flung out of the vehicle, which rolled at least twice before coming to a standstill,” stated the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund in a statement issued on Sunday.
MVA said it chartered two air ambulances to airlift the three patients with serious injuries to Windhoek for further injury management. All three patients had arrived in Windhoek and already started receiving the necessary medical attention at the Katutura state hospital.
“The fund is seriously concerned about the trend of road crashes on the national road network, particularly due to the high number of people injured in these crashes. Many of these crashes are attributed to driver error and could therefore have been prevented and the families of those affected spared the resultant pain and anguish. Road users are once again reminded to take personal responsibility for their safety on the roads, and thus refrain from disregarding road traffic regulations,” stated the MVA.
After Saturday’s accident, some residents claimed Stony City would be “closed” so that people no longer go there for leisure purposes.
However, Katima Mulilo Town Council CEO, Charles Nawa Nawa, yesterday shot down the claims saying they had a meeting on Sunday with all stakeholders and no resolution to close the popular spot was made.
“The area does not fall within the town council, it belongs to the Zambezi Regional Council. We do not have a resolution to close the area. It is not an issue of accidents, the issue around Stony City is a health hazard. There are no toilets, no electricity, it is dark. And people drink and smash empty bottles all over the place and also into the river,” he said, adding that an environmental assessment was conducted recently and found that the area is not fit for human habitation.
He said in a meeting it was decided to put up a roadblock to ensure people coming from the river do not speed or drive under the influence of alcohol.
By Mathias Haufiku