Samuel Kadungure and Lovemore Kadzura Post Reporters
THE fugitive driver of the Harare-bound Smart bus — Cosmas Marembo — was travelling at nearly twice the speed limit when he tried to overtake two vehicles at a sharp curve, leading to a side swipe with another oncoming coach that killed 47 people — 45 of them on the spot — on Wednesday evening.
About 80 passengers from both buses survived the accident with various injuries.
Three were transferred to Parirenyatwa Hospital by an ambulance owing to the serious nature of their injuries.
The names of the deceased had not been released at the time of going to print as their relatives had not been contacted.
The accident, in which the Smart bus was side-swiped by a Mutare-bound Bolt Cutter bus, occurred around 6pm at the 166km peg along the Mutare-Harare Highway.
Both drivers were said to be speeding by survivors and witnesses.
A witness, Mr Bezel Mapiye said the Harare-bound bus was travelling at “tremendous speed.”
“The Smart bus was travelling at a tremendous speed towards Harare, and on approaching the curve, attempted to overtake two haulage trucks, resulting in the accident.
“The driver and the conductor survived the accident and fled the scene while their counterparts in the other bus died on the spot.
“We did not have specialised equipment to cut the wreckages and rescue those trapped inside.
“We had to improvise. We had to pull the wreckage with a chain hooked on the fire tender,” said Mr Mapiye.
Survivors who spoke to The Manica Post echoed Mr Mapiye’s sentiments.
Mr Obadiah Washaya, who was on the Smart bus said he was lucky to be alive.
He was discharged yesterday morning and led police with indications at the scene.
He said the Smart bus driver was speeding and attempted to overtake a haulage truck and a Toyota Wish at the curve.
This, he said, resulted in the bus encroaching into the lane of the oncoming Bolt Cutter bus.
He also blamed the other driver for speeding too saying if he was travelling at regulated speed, he could have slowed to avert the disaster.
“The Smart Express driver tried to overtake a haulage truck and a Toyota Wish at the curve. He failed to beat those vehicles on time as the Bolt Cutter bus was very close.
“When a head on collision was almost about to occur, the Smart bus swerved to the extreme right of the opposite lane in an attempt to avoid the collision.
“His actions were, however, a shade too slow as the Bolt Cutter bus hit the Smart bus on the area around the back wheels. It was a big bang and I do not know how I survived with these minor injuries because the bus was hit right where I was seated.
“People screamed and yelled. I have never seen so many dead people in my whole life,” he said.
“I saw the Smart Express driver and the conductor running away. The Bolt Cutter driver died on the spot. Both buses were speeding,” said Mr Washaya.
Seti Mushanyuki, of Chikanga, who was aboard the Bolt Cutter bus described his condition as critical, adding that nurses and doctors were regularly attending to him.
Mr Tichaona Chimonyo, of Mutoko, said his relatives were not aware of his predicament.
Mr Maxwell Rushambwa, a witness also blamed the accident on speeding.
“The cause of the accident was tremendous speed. If the driver of the Harare-bound bus was travelling at a safe speed, he could have controlled the coach. Manicaland roads have sharp curves and steep terrain not ideal for those with an appetite for speeding,” said Mr Rushambwa.
The buses have since been impounded by Rusape police for inspection by VID.
Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba and Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister, Cde Joel Biggie Matiza yesterday visited the victims at Rusape General Hospital.
They said President Mnangagwa had donated $500 per bereaved person.
The Insurance Council of Zimbabwe will cater for the injured’s medical bills.
Higher Life Foundation has donated foodstuffs to both victims and bereaved families.