Oshali-It was on a windy day in October 2015 that Beatha Kandume’s life was instantly transformed when the vehilce she was travelling in was struck by a train while she was crossing the rail to get to work.
“I remember holding my baby tightly while stuck on the rail and the sound of the train when it hit our car,” said the wheelchair-bound Beatha Kandume, who woke up four days later in a coma with multiple, life-changing injuries.
Today the 26-year-old Kandume depends heavily on family and friends after sustaining a spinal cord injury that disabled her and rendered it very difficult to fend for herself and two children. Recalling the grim accident two years ago, Kandume said she had tried to get out of the car when she saw the train approaching, but the rear door would not open.
She said her cousin was confused and instead of jumping out of the car, he held onto the steering wheel attempting to get the car off the rail, without realising the car’s engine had long switched off.
“I managed to jump onto the driver’s seat after my cousin jumped out of the car, but it was too late. It hit our car straight off the rail, throwing my daughter and me into different directions and the car proceeded to hit my cousin.”
She said perhaps if the rail sidings were cleared and there were no bushy trees and shrubs, they might have seen the train from a distance and would not today be so severely disabled. Although the crossing has since been cleared, initially one had to get onto the rail to see whether there was an oncoming train or not.
On that unfortunate day, it was too windy and they had closed the windows, because there was an infant on board. “We did not hear the oncoming train and only heard when it beeped, but it was already too close,” Kandume said.
After spending almost four months in hospital, Kandume returned home to start her new life in a wheelchair. Trying to hold back her tears as she talks about her situation, Kandume said it remains a challenge to get through the day.
She said there are times she needs to care for herself, given her condition, but her life has become too costly. Although, she receives a disability grant from government, she says it is not enough to cater for herself and the children.
She is grateful to the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund that will pay all her medical expenses for seven years from the day of the accident, but she wants compensation from TransNamib. “They should at least compensate me for the car. We no longer have a car at home and this is the same car that was supposed to carry me to and from the hospital,” she said.
She said she has been in touch with an official at TransNamib who only gave her excuses.
TransNamib’s acting chief executive officer Mbahupu Tjivikua said the company is not obliged to compensate train victims. He said trains always have the right of way at railway crossings and drivers should exercise patience and diligence when passing such crossings.
“There are some drivers who are always trying to compete with the train, but not knowing that the train can be at a fast speed and result in crashes,” said Tjivikua.