Deadly weekend

23 dead, 37 injured in two days

16 September 2019 | Accidents

The deaths of at least 23 people in five car crashes on Friday and Saturday has highlighted Namibia's unresolved road accident epidemic and cast a cloud of despair over the nation.

“A very dark cloud is hanging over Namibia,” chief of police Sebastian Ndeitunga said yesterday. He added that most of the accidents shared a common thread. “What is involved is human attitude.”

At least 23 people, including two children, were killed and 37 injured in five separate car crashes on Friday and Saturday.

Chief Inspector Kaunapawa Shikwambi said the high number of accidents, casualties and injuries is a “grave national concern”.

The police emphasised that efforts need to be increased to collectively address the “attitude of drivers”.

Ndeitunga yesterday said Friday's mass casualty Kalkfeld crash, raised serious questions about the driver's negligence, but also the fact that the passengers allowed the minibus to be overloaded by 26 persons.

































The police confirmed that 42 people were in the 16-seater minibus when its rear tyre burst near Kalkfeld, overturning the vehicle and killing 14 occupants.

Thirty-two people sustained minor to serious injuries, including the driver who died of his injuries the next day.

Some of the passengers had agreed to sit on beer crates that were crammed into the bus for extra seating, Ndeitunga said.

“How can a driver in his right mind pack people into that minibus like sardines? The tyres could not sustain that kind of weight.”

The police chief further said the passengers had a responsibility to “realise they cannot be packed into a minibus like sardines. They are the ones to protest, because it's their lives at stake.”

Ndeitunga stressed that in another fatal accident, between Otavi and Tsumeb on Saturday, the driver had allegedly overtaken a vehicle at a blind spot, crashing into an unsuspecting oncoming vehicle.

“That was the reason. And four people died on the spot. I have no words; this is really sad. It's attitude in most cases, causing these accidents. It was a really sad weekend.”

Ndeitunga said although the attitudes of drivers and passengers played a crucial role in the carnage, traffic police should be more visible on the roads.

He added, however, that the police “can't be everywhere. The public also has to make sure they are not put at risk.”



Five E's

West Coast Safety Initiative's co-ordinator, Aubrey Oosthuizen, who has long monitored and responded to car crashes at the coast, warned yesterday that mass casualty incidents such as the Kalkfeld accident highlighted a long-standing and ongoing problem.

“Each and every weekend, every day in Namibia is a bloodbath on our roads. With a big accident like this, the emphasis is put on this particular incident, but we are not looking at the larger picture.”

He said while the public outcry predictably peters out after major, headline-grabbing accidents, the problem is not addressed or reduced.

“You have one or more big incidents, and everyone responds. But there are accidents each weekend, where one or two persons die on our roads. Unfortunately everyone is quiet then. It's an ostrich syndrome, where we stick our heads into the sand.”

He added that there “isn't really a plan” when it comes to implementing a comprehensive road-safety initiative.

Oosthuizen said sustained road safety is based on the implementation of the “Five E's”: education, emergency services, enforcement, evaluation, and engineering.

“Should you have a part or complete failure in any one or more of these components you will sit with an adverse scenario like in the present. So sad the loss of lives on our roads, but so preventable if the Five E's system is properly implemented, put in place throughout and well maintained. Sadly, there is always the human factor also involved in most, if not all, crashes in Namibia.”

He warned that the response once the accidents have taken place is merely “treating the symptoms and not the actual causes.”



Deadly

Fourteen people including a six-month-old baby boy and a seven-year-old girl died in the Kalkfeld accident on Friday afternoon.

Also on Friday afternoon, well-known tourism personality Werner Beddies died in a head-on-collision near Seeis. The police are reportedly investigating whether the crash was in fact a suicide.

Then, on Saturday, a toddler and three adults, including the driver, died in a head-on collision between Tsumeb and Otavi.

Three pedestrians died at Okakwa location on the Outapi to Oshakati main road on Saturday night when the driver of a Toyota Landcruiser bakkie crashed into them. Two of pedestrians died on the spot and a toddler died on the way to the hospital. Tests revealed the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and he was arrested.

Another person died in a crash near Walvis Bay when a vehicle overturned early on Saturday morning.

Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund CEO Rosalia Martins-Hausiku on Saturday released a statement in which she said the Fund would assist the families of the deceased with their benefit claims.

JANA-MARI SMITH