THIRTEEN people died while 18 others were seriously injured when a Harare-bound Zupco bus travelling from Malawi was side-swiped by a haulage truck and plunged into Mtuli River at the 22km peg along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway on Monday night.
National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said 10 people in the bus died on the spot, while three others died on admission to Parirenyatwa Hospital.
He said the bus, which had 43 passengers on board, veered off the road and plunged into Mtuli River Bridge after it was sideswiped by a Mujawo Transport International truck which was travelling in the opposite direction.
The accident came a few days before the Heroes and Defence Forces holidays which are usually bloody on the roads.
It also occurred barely 24 hours after three people died on the spot, while 14 others were seriously injured when a kombi overturned and rolled three times along Old Esigodini Road near Rio Hotel in Bulawayo.
On Sunday, four people were killed while nine sustained serious injuries when a Toyota Granvia they were travelling in veered off the road, overturned and rolled before smashing into a tree at the 95km peg along the Bulawayo-Plumtree Road.
Police said preliminary investigations into the latest accident revealed that the truck driver, Wonderford Nyamarumbe, stopped his vehicle just after the bridge after allegedly noticing some clothes dumped in the middle of the road.
“The driver alleges that he stopped his truck thinking that there were people lying on the road and then started reversing his motor vehicle in order to avoid running over the objects,” Nyathi said.
Witnesses who spoke to NewsDay at the accident scene said they suspected that the bus was speeding, resulting in the driver failing to control the vehicle as he battled to avoid a head-on collision.
“I was driving behind the bus and it was moving fast only to find it had plunged into the river when we arrived at the accident scene,” said a witness who declined to be named.
A woman claimed that her aunt, who died in the accident, had told her the bus was speeding during an earlier phone conversation.
“When I last communicated with my aunt who was on the bus, they were still in Murehwa and she told me the bus was speeding,” she said.
She added that her aunt’s husband, who was in Malawi, phoned and told them he had received news from a friend in the police force in Murehwa that the bus had been involved in an accident.
“When we arrived at the accident scene, she had already been ferried to Parirenyatwa Hospital,” she said.
Nyamurumbe also claimed the bus driver was speeding and failed to apply breaks on time upon realising that an accident was imminent.
“The driver of the bus was speeding and he tried to avoid a head-on collision with my truck. He failed to break and hit the right rear view mirror of the truck before plunging into a ditch,” he said.
Crispen Benjamin, who said he was a cousin of the bus driver, said when he arrived at the scene, many passengers were crying out for help.
“When I arrived at the accident scene, people were calling for help and it took almost two hours for ambulances to start carrying people to Parirenyatwa Hospital,” he alleged.
Edmore Mujera of Waterfalls said some lives could have been saved if the injured had received immediate attention.
“It is true, some lives could have been saved, but there was an unhurried response from the ambulances. I voluntarily made two trips ferrying people to Parirenyatwa Hospital,” he said.