Death toll from Boksburg tank explosion rises to 26, families struggling to cope: Lesufi

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Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi says many families of the victims of the Boksburg gas truck explosion are not coping with their loss, and that the decision by the police not to proceed with the case against the truck driver arrested for the incident has made things even harder for them.

Premier Lesufi has been visiting the families of healthcare workers at the Tambo Memorial hospital who died during the truck explosion on Christmas Eve in Plantation, Boksburg, on Gauteng’s East Rand. He announces that the death toll has now risen to 26 following the deaths of eight more people.

The hospital is about 100 meters from the explosion site. He says many of the families of the victims that they’ve visited are not coping with the loss of their loved ones.

“It is a difficult moment for us but we have to be strong. What worsens the situation is the state of the bodies. The manner in which their loved ones passed on and the lack of explanation as well to what happened and the decision of the police not to proceed with the case now has made things difficult for the families, but we have comforted them,” says Lesufi.

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi gives update after visiting families of health workers from Tambo Memorial Hospital: 

Police say the truck driver who was arrested in connection with the incident has been released on a warning. The 32-year-old was due to make his first appearance in the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court on Gauteng’s East Rand.

“The suspect was arrested on the 24th of December and was released on the 27 December 2022 pending further investigations. As soon as investigations are concluded, the case docket will be sent to court for a decision,” Gauteng police spokesperson, Brenda Muridili explains.

The truck, which was carrying LPG gas, exploded after it became stuck under a low bridge. E-hailing taxi service driver Kgomotso Nhlane was driving along the Hospital road and passing under the bridge to drop off a nursing sister at the hospital when her car stalled. She says the truck was making a swooshing noise and then caught alight.

Nhlane says the driver became dizzy and they called an ambulance for him. She says before he was taken away, they took photos of the documents inside the file he was carrying to get his personal details and the name of the company he worked for.

“When I checked his documents, I realised that his driving license is for goods and passengers. And yet he was driving dangerous goods. And his PDP had expired in 2019. We were supposed to be among those who died because we were closer to the incident. I think what helped me to move away is the noise made by the gas, had I not moved I would have burnt there,” says Nhlane.

A group of truck drivers who arrived at the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court claimed the truck driver was inexperienced. Wearing black t-shirts with the logo of Infinite Transport, the company the driver was working for. They allege that they were fired by the company for refusing to work under a labour broker as they were permanently employed.

“When we were fired in September, the qualified controllers left also. The controller would phone you when you stop and ask why you are stopping. So, this guy how come that all the way from N17 highway he ended up in the Boksburg CBD. What was the controller doing? Because as soon as he diverts from the route, the controller must call immediately so he was left until he reached the bridge,” says Pocket Mofokeng.

Mofokeng says he was surprised to see the truck he was driving for years, under the bridge.

“I would drive up to Tanzania with that truck with no incident. That truck, IT47 is the truck that I was driving,” Mofokeng adds.

Attempts to get hold of Infinite Transport have not been successful.

Meanwhile, Lesufi says a memorial service for the victims will be held on Friday as the provincial government will be in a position to give a final detailed report of everything that has happened.

VIDEO: Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi updates on the death toll in the Boksburg tanker explosion