A multi-task team has been deployed to the scene of the accident involving a train and a truck which claimed the lives of 19 people in the Free State on Thursday.

The Shosholoza Meyl passenger train collided with a truck between Kroonstad and Hennenman.

It is believed that the truck driver thought he would beat the train by crossing at the level crossing. More than seven hundred passengers were on the train which was travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg. Various departments have been on the scene throughout the day to remove the wreckage.

Distraught families are still visiting the accident site to look for their loved ones. Two-hundred and 68 people were taken to various hospitals. Four of them are in a critical condition. Free State MEC for Health, Butana Komphela, says the majority of those injured have been discharged from hospital.

“So far there’s no stampede and so far everything has gone very well and people have been treated except those who had serious injuries like the baby who is in Kroonstad, so they will look whether the operation is needed. It’s not life threatening injuries that he has; it is injuries that really can be healed.”

Komphela says a multi-task team which includes police, emergency medical services, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and Transnet officials has been established, to assist with the situation at the scene. “It is our belief that this is an unfortunate incident that has happened. We have already established a multi-disciplinary team.”

A 12-year-old boy who lives at a nearby farm is one of those who witnessed the crash. Evert du Preez says he was on his way to check horses when he saw the incident.

“I saw the train hit the truck. I saw train at the back and people jumping out on the windows and I helped caring the babies to the ambulances and also old people.”

Police have opened a case of culpable homicide against the truck driver. For now the death toll remains at 18, but it is expected to increase when the wreckage is lifted. Click below for more on the story: