By SYLVESTER MWALE -
THE Mazhandu bus involved in yesterday’s road traffic accident that left 10 people dead and many more seriously injured had survived a near-miss just hours before the fatal crash with a truck, police said.
Central Province Police Chief Lombe Kamukoshi said preliminary investigations pointed to a fault with the bus that had caused it to careen off the road the evening before near Kohima Barracks in Kabwe, where the driver was forced to park for the night before resuming the fated journey yesterday morning.
Less than an hour into the journey to Kitwe, around 05:00hrs, according to witnesses, the bus was involved in an accident with a truck, leaving 10 people dead, among them, a baby travelling with its mum on the truck, whose driver was also killed.
“This accident is quite unfortunate, because preliminary investigations indicate that this same bus yesterday (Monday) between 18:00 and 18:30 hours careered off the road somewhere near Kohima where they spent a night.
“So it’s quite sad that the driver was not cautious…and not thinking in terms that the bus probably could have had a mechanical fault, so they had this head-on collision,” Ms Kamukoshi said.
Four female and three male bus passengers died on the spot while the driver of the truck (registration number ACM 1160), a female passenger as well as her baby also lost their lives.
An eye witness Edmond Mwape said he found a number of passengers lying on the ground soon after hearing a huge bang on the road.
Mr Mwape said the accident could have been caused by speeding by both drivers because it happened on a straight stretch.
“It was very early in the morning when I heard a crash from my house, which is just along the road, and when we came here (accident scene) we found all the people from the bus and I knew it was an accident,” he said.
Joyce Mubanga, another eye-witness, said she saw the bus swerve just before the two vehicles collided, with the truck overturning.
“I was going to the field when I saw the bus over-speeding and
swerving like it was being pushed by the wind. The next thing I heard was a loud bang and I thought everyone on the bus had died,” Ms Mubanga said.
Kapir iMposhi District Hospital medical officer Bevin Mulenga said the institution received 18 casualties, but seven of them were referred to Kabwe General Hospital (KGH).
Dr Mulenga said the driver of the bus was among those referred to the KGH and was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) while the majority in Kapiri Hospital sustained head and hand injuries.
“We have 11 in total remaining in hospital but they are stable. We have done X-rays and we are now stabilising them. They are very cautious and if anything comes up, we will refer them to Kabwe General
Hospital,” Dr Mulenga said.
Central Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe, who also rushed to the scene before visiting the casualties at Kapiri Mposhi District Hospital, said the Government was saddened by the accident.
“I would also like to assure the bereaved families that the Government will do everything possible to ensure that we try and lighten their burden on the loss,” Mr Kabwe said.
The accident happened at almost the same spot where 25 people, including Times of Zambia correspondent Yvonne Chate, died in April last year when a Lusaka-bound Wada Chovu bus collided with
a Benz minibus from Kabwe.
It is also the same spot where another Mazhandu Family Bus killed seven people in August last year after it overturned due to speeding.
Meanwhile, the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) said in a statement that it had noticed the poor safety record of the Mazhandu Family Bus Service, which had resulted in road accidents in the past
The Agency would, therefore, notify the public on the next action it would take against the company.
In April last year, RTSA suspended the operating licences for Mazhandu and Wada Chovu Bus services for one month, but the move was overturned almost immediately by the then minister of Transport, Kapembwa Simbao.
The suspension followed two road traffic accidents that happened involving buses belonging to the two operators at that time.
A Mazhandu bus was involved in an accident on the Great North Road near Kabwe in which seven people died that month.
In December, one person died and many were injured in another accident involving Mazhandu.
Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba said the Government was saddened by the death of the 10 people and was praying for the injured victims to recover quickly.
Mr Mushimba said his ministry was waiting for the Police and RTSA investigations in the matter, and it would support any decision the road safety agency would make.