Four people died within a day of each other after being hit by trains in two separate incidents

NABEELAH MOHEDEEN

, including a 70-year-old grandmother who had all four limbs amputated, died within a day of each other after being hit by trains in two separate incidents at Athlone and Heideveld stations, and a train driver was shot dead at Netreg station on Monday, plunging the rail service into chaos.

Susan Smith, from Bokmakierie, fell onto the tracks at Athlone station and her arms and legs were severed, early on Wednesday July 6. Witnesses said she had tried to board a moving train.

She died in Groote Schuur Hospital on Thursday morning July 7.

ER24 spokesperson Chitra Bodasing said Ms Smith had been found lying between two train tracks.

“She was conscious but in a critical condition. She sustained amputations to both her legs below the knees and both arms below the elbows.”

Francas Darkse, 58, knew Ms Smith for more than 50 years. They were friends and neighbours. She said that on the day she had been hit by the train, Ms Smith left home after 6am.

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“She was living here for many years but moved to Mitchell’s Plain when she got married. About two years she and her husband moved back to Bokmakierie, and I just saw her waving at me again from the gate. She became very quiet and never spoke much,” said Ms Darkse.

Ms Smith’s family were too distraught to speak to the Athlone News.

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said the commuter service is investigating the 6.20am incident. Witnesses had described seeing Ms Smith trying to board a moving train.

“We implore the public to only use authorised crossings such as subways and bridges to cross railway lines for their own safety,” said Ms Scott.

Then, the day after Ms Smith died, there was another rail tragedy. A train fatally injured three young men as they crossed the tracks between Heideveld and Netreg stations, at 6am.

The men, aged between 27 and 32, were declared dead at the scene. An inquest has been opened.

Lieutenant Ian Bennet, from Manenberg SAPS, said: “It is a criminal offence and extremely dangerous to cross the tracks at non-designated areas.”

On Monday, at Netreg station, Metrorail train driver Pieter Botha, 46, who was on duty at the time, died after he was shot twice in what is believed to have been a robbery. Peak-hour delays followed after fearful drivers refused to work.

According to Ms Scott, since January, a total of 39 “railway incidents”, specifically injuries, deaths, and suicides, excluding criminal activity, had been reported across the Western Cape.

On Wednesday June 22, Jason Carelse, 13, died when he and friend, Charles Gates, 16, were hit by a train at Steenberg level crossing as the two tried to cross it on their bikes. Jason’s leg was amputated.

The following week, Tuesday June 28, a 40-year-old man was seriously injured after he was allegedly thrown from a moving train near the Brackenfell train station.

Ms Scott said Metrorail urges commuters to obey safety rules at all times to prevent injury.

“This applies particularly to boarding or disembarking from trains already in motion and using bridges or subways to cross railway lines safely,” she said.

Witnesses are asked to contact the Retreat investigation office on 021 710 5129 or 021 449 4336 with information that could assist in the investigation.