Botswana: Emergency Services Could Have Done Better - Commercial Officer

Mahalapye — A commercial officer at Botswana Railways, Ms Game Phuthego says the emergency services which they called for assistance on the day of the BR train accident could have done better.

Giving evidence before the board of enquiry, Ms Phuthego said that the emergency services responded early but came without the necessary equipment to help the employees who were trapped in the cab.

She said her colleagues could have died at the hospital other than at the scene of the accident because they were still alive when emergency services was called.

She said the accident happened at around 2am but the emergency services managed to help them at around 5am.

Ms Phuthego stated that when the emergency services went back her colleagues were still alive and were already dead when the emergency services came back to take them.

Relating the events of that day, Ms Phuthego said she reported for work at 8pm and the train was late and departed for Gaborone at 11:05pm.

All was in place, she said. She said they were 10 on duty and the 11th employee was the late, Mr Kgomotso Seaitsoketsa (rail inspector).

He said Mr Seaitsoketsa told her that he was going to join those who were in the locomotive when they reached Pallaroad in order to assess the situation at Bonwapitse River.

She said everything went as usual and when they reached Pallaroad, the train stopped and Mr Seaitsoketsa went to join those who were in the locomotive.

She said after that, the train went at a reduced speed until they heard a derailment noise and immediately after that it was dark.

Ms Phuthego said she tried to put the mic on in order to calm the passengers who at that time were panicking but the PA system was not working.

She said she then called her managers and the control office and informed them of the derailment.

Ms Phuthego said the control office staff told her that communication on their side just went off and they thought it was because of the rain. She said she then called the engine lady who was in control of the train when it derailed but her number did not get through.

Ms Phuthego Phuthego stated that they evacuated all 400 customers but the four employees who were in the cab were still trapped.

She said there was no first aid box in the train and she used her bare hands to help some of the passengers. Ms Phuthego said after 45 minutes the fire department, Mahalapye, hospital staff, the Botswana Police and some of the BR staff came and she asked them to try and help one of her colleagues who was trapped in the locomotive but still responding.

She said she thought that they were going to help her colleagues but they went back.

Another BR employee, a security constable, Mr Karabo Motaung told the enquiry that everything was well until they heard a loud noise and the train got derailed near Bonwapitse River.

He said with the help of other security officers they evacuated all the 400 passengers onboard and afterwards realised that the locomotive was not there.

He said there was water all over and they had to swim to the road to locate the locomotive which they managed to do though it was hard because they used cellular phones to light.

Mr Motaung said they found the train lady (driver of the train) on top of the locomotive and the other three crew members were trapped inside the locomotive. They managed to rescue her.

He said they talked to all of them since they were still alive and tried to remove them but could not because they were embedded in the mud. He said lack of response from the emergency services led to the death of the two crew members.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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