South African truck driver charged with murder

JOHANNESBURG Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:34am EDT

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The driver of a farm truck that was ripped in half by a coal train at a level crossing in South Africa as he took fruit-pickers to work has been charged with 25 counts of murder.

South African police said on Saturday that its investigation suggested the driver ignored clear signage, taking his vehicle into the path of the train that dragged the truck 200 meters (660 feet) down the track, dismembering its occupants.

"He was negligent," Mapumalanga police spokesperson Col Leonard Hlathi told Reuters.

Last year a Cape Town minibus taxi driver was sentenced to 20 years in jail for killing 10 children in his vehicle when it was hit by a train as he drove over railway lines while taking a shortcut on the way to school.

The latest accident on the country's ageing rail network happened on Friday, at a rural rail crossing 400 km (250 miles) east of Johannesburg. The train was carrying coal to neighboring Mozambique.

Police said forensic experts found it hard to establish exactly how many people had been killed. The initial death toll given was 24 while on Saturday police said it could be 26.

South Africa's government has announced plans to spend billions of dollars on revamping the railways that serve the continent's biggest economy, although human error is often to blame for accidents.

(Reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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