JOHANNESBURG – The National United Transport Union (UNTU) on Thursday said it was “devastated” by the news that its member, driver Neo Oageng, died after his goods train derailed near the Madibogo Station in the North West.
The Transnet Freight Rail goods train was en route from Kimberley to Mafikeng when it derailed at a place where heavy rains had washed away the railway line.
Initial reports said the train derailed after hitting a cow, but UNTU pointed to the rails that had been washed away as the cause.
In a statement General Secretary of UNTU, Steve Harris, said: “This is a very tragic incident where no-one can be blamed. South Africa has been experiencing severe weather conditions the last few years”.
Harris added: “After South Africa experienced the worst droughts in 30 year, heavy rainfall often causes flash flooding”.
The UNTU general secretary said a similar incident happened earlier this year at Cato Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal were a Transnet train derailed in stormy weather killing two employees.
“This is one of the greatest risks that mother nature gives train drivers daily,” lamented Harris.
He extended UNTU’s “sincerest condolences” to family, friends and colleagues of Oageng. “Our prayers will be with you during this very difficult time over the festive season.”
Meanwhile the Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown also conveyed her condolences to the deceased’s family.
“I am saddened by the death of Mr Oageng and would like to express my sympathy to his family and colleagues,” said Brown in a statement. The assistant driver was hospitalised after the incident.
“My thoughts are also with the injured worker and I want to assure them of our prayers. I have asked Transnet to give the families the necessary support they would need during this period. One life lost is one too many.
Brown said she had also requested Transnet to review its safety procedures at the various depots and rail routes to prevent such tragic accidents in future.
“One life lost is one too many.”