Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hijacking: U-turn to carnage

Life in the new South Africa. One moment you are on your way home and the next you are dead.

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Suicidal driver might have been a desperate hijacker.

The bloody accident claimed nine lives, but the innocent woman who survived and is fighting for her life in hospital might have been hijacked, with her toddler who was one of the people killed.

Police cannot confirm if the woman, who is in a critical condition, is the owner of the car or if it was hijacked.

But they can say that the Toyota Corolla she was travelling in did a u-turn into oncoming traffic on the M1 highway and drove slap bang into a Renault Clio early yesterday.

The drama started when police spotted the silver grey Toyota Corolla, jam-packed with six people in it, including the toddler, parked at a garage in Turffontein, south of Johannesburg.

The Toyota mist have seen the cops, because it took off. “The police then suspected the occupants were trying to hide something and gave chase,” police spokesman Captain William Mpondo said.

He said the car raced to the M1 south towards Southgate and then made a sudden and suicidal u-turn on the highway just past the Xavier off-ramp. The two cars slammed into each other.

Bodies were trapped inside the wrecked vehicles from the impact at about 2am. Fire fighters had to use the “jaws of life” to free them, but it was too late. Nine people were dead – four from the Toyota and all five occupants of the Renault.

The dead were all between 20 and 30 but they cannot be named because their families have not identified them.

“The Renault was so badly damaged that no one could tell what model it was,” Johannesburg metro police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minaar said. “Police are investigating why the car drove off when the patrol unit approached it.”

Netcare 911 spokesman Nick Dollman said two survivors were stabilised and taken to Chris Hani-Baragwanath and Netcare Milpark hospitals for further assessment and treatment. He said the massive smash had caused a huge and hours-long gridlock.

“All four lanes for the M1 south-bound traffic from Gold Reef City towards Southgate were closed to traffic and motorists were diverted at the Xavier off-ramp,” Dollman said.

Mpondo said although Gauteng police are investigating the possibility that the injured woman and toddler who died were hijacked, “we are not sure”.

“Police have not received any report about the Corolla being stolen.” The injured woman was one of two people in the Toyota who survived. The other person faces a charge of culpable homicide and possibly hijacking.

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