The truck rolled madly down a slope, trapping one of the victims who yelled for help, desperately calling his dead colleagues’ names. A tractor was hired to pull him out. Another got thrown out of the car and rolled on the thorny ground. He was rescued moments before he could plunge himself into the nearby river.
These are some of the gory details emerging from Thursday’s horrific car crash that claimed four of First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa’s aides in Manicaland.
The four staff members from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) perished while two others sustained injuries in an accident, which occurred on the 38km peg along the Nyanga-Ruwangwe Road early Thursday morning.
Villagers who witnessed the crash said speeding was the major cause of accidents along the road.
The group was part of a team delivering goods for the elderly in Ruwangwe community under First Lady’s Community Assistance and Empowerment Programme when their truck overturned.
Mnangagwa, who was scheduled to interact with the elderly and other vulnerable groups in Ruwangwe same day, was still in Nyanga Town at the time of the accident.
The accident scene is in the region of the Nyanga bus disaster in an area which is commonly known as “Corner raAmon”.
The Nyanga bus disaster occurred on August 3, 1991 and is Zimbabwe’s worst traffic accident after 89 people died that comprised the driver and 82 schoolchildren.
A witness who declined to be named, said the driver failed to negotiate a sharp curve.
“I was waiting for transport at a bus station when I saw this truck passing.
“The driver was speeding and this made it difficult for him to negotiate the sharp curves in this area,” he said.
One of the people who arrived at the crash site early, Sarah Mukwekwe, said she was awakened by a loud bang.
“I live near the Tangwena turn off and I heard a bang. When I went outside the house to investigate, I saw the lorry meandering before hitting a trailer of a commuter omnibus which was travelling in the opposite direction. It then overturned. This is an accident zone and every week or after every two weeks an accident occurs here.
“Last week one man died while he was cycling and got hit by a driver who failed to negotiate a curve. We humbly plead with the authorities to install barricades,” she said.
Regina Mautsa said she was alerted of the accident by her children who were preparing for school.
“When we arrived at the accident scene, people were trying to remove one person who was crying out for help underneath the truck. We then brought a tractor which pulled the truck and managed to rescue him before he was rushed to hospital,” she said.
Lovemore Mhandu said he was about 40 metres from the crash site when tragedy struck.
“When I arrived, the vehicle had overturned and we sought to ways to assist the people. Unfortunately, four had already died. We later rescheduled the one who was crying under the vehicle.
“He was in a stable condition though he was in a state of shock calling out the names of his colleagues who had died. Personally, I urge drivers to exercise caution because there are sharp curves and if one is speeding, surely there will be consequences,” he said.
Felistus Matsiwira said; “My son told me that smoke was billowing and a truck had fallen, prompting me to run to the scene. When I went with another villager to investigate, I saw someone rolling in the thorns and was about to get into the river and we rushed to assist him.
“He was alive, but seriously injured. We are not sure if he jumped from the moving truck or he was thrown out by impact. Had we not seen him, he might have drowned. We then put him into a car together with the one who was trapped and was rushed to Regina Coeli Mission hospital.”
Masimba Fombe from Mukwekwe Village gave his own version of events.
“I was at the turn-off and a kombi had stopped on its way from Nyamaropa. I just saw the truck descending the slope at high speed and hit the trailer of the kombi before meandering and over turned,” he said.
Police Superintendent Crispen Makavanga urged motorists to exercise caution.
“Around 0600hrs we received information that there was a tragic accident that occurred along Nyanga-Ruwangwe Road. We reacted and arrived on the scene where we discovered that a 7-tonne truck had overturned.
“We managed to retrieve four bodies. Two were alive and were sent to Regina Hospital. As ZRP we urge motorists to exercise caution at all times. This stretch has sharp curves and drivers should exercise extreme caution,” he said.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Nokhuthula Matsikenyere fought off tears as she expressed grief over the accident.
“As Manicaland, we were excited that our mother had come to spend time with us because when the First Lady comes, we are always happy as she comes to teach us and give us whatever she would have brought for her children. We were expecting this to be a day of happiness.
“This accident pained us. We have lost four children. We know this area is an accident zone but we were not expecting this. We send condolences to the bereaved families,” she said.