Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
TWENTY passengers were burnt beyond recognition while 41 were critically injured in a horrific accident that happened when a South Africa-bound Proliner Bus sideswiped with a haulage truck and caught fire in Chirumanzu.
The accident occurred at Nyamatikiti River near Chaka Business Centre at the 218km peg along the Harare-Masvingo Beitbridge highway on Wednesday night at around 9PM.
National chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday described the mishap as the worst ever on the country’s roads.
She said the National University of Science and Technology has been engaged for DNA identification of the victims.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the driver of the South African registered haulage truck, Regius Mangwari (29) who was driving to Harare carrying tyres, has been charged with 20 cases of culpable homicide. Mangwari, she said, was now under police guard while admitted at Mvuma District Hospital.
“I confirm that police have recovered about 20 charred remains from the horrific accident that occurred on Wednesday evening along the Harare–Masvingo highway. Forty-one passengers were injured in the accident and are admitted to Mvuma District Hospital, Driefontein Mission Hospital and Masvingo Provincial Hospital while two critical passengers who suffered severe head and spinal injuries among other things had been referred to a Harare hospital,” she said.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the scene yesterday, police were removing the charred bodies from the bus wreck which was still smouldering.
The haulage truck had been burnt to the ground while tyres that where in the two trailers were still burning. A few tyres were salvaged from the fire.
Smoke was still billowing from the shells of the two vehicles and the smell of burnt human flesh and tyres engulfed the area.
Police were controlling traffic as the burning vehicles blocked the road and efforts to remove them were underway.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said according to the bus manifest, there were supposed to be 61 people on board including the driver and the conductor. It appears the bus crew later picked up four passengers who were not included on the manifest.
She said the truck driver was alone at the time of the accident.
She said the officer commanding national traffic, Snr Asst Comm Felistus Chikowore Mjanga and the officer commanding Midlands Province Snr Asst Comm Abigail Moyo were at the scene of the accident to ensure that investigations proceeded smoothly.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that on approaching the 218km peg, Mangwari encroached on the path of the oncoming bus. The bus and the haulage truck sideswiped and both vehicles caught fire. Twenty passengers were trapped and burnt beyond recognition. Forty-one passengers were injured. Four escaped without any injuries. The injured were taken to Mvuma District Hospital, Driefontein Mission Hospital and Masvingo Provincial Hospital. The critical ones were referred to a Harare Hospital,” she said.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba made a passionate appeal to members of the public to stop travelling at night. “I make a passionate appeal to members of the public to travel in the morning or in the afternoon because at night vision is impaired. At the same time drivers shouldn’t be selfish on the road. Some drivers travel in the middle of the road and refuse to give way, leading to such cases as sideswiping,” she said.
Chirumanzu South legislator Cde Innocent Munanzvi and Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe managing director Mr Obio Chinyere attended the scene and consoled relatives of the deceased.