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Boksburg blast | Employer provides detailed timeline of events, says driver not at fault

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Innovative Staffing Solutions (ISS) has provided a timeline of events of the fateful day that saw an Infinite Group gas tanker explode leading to the deaths of several people on Hospital Road in Boksburg. The labour outsourcing company says its driver was not to blame and did his best to save lives.

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi announced on Wednesday that, 8 more people have succumbed to injuries sustained during the blast bringing the total number of the deceased to 26.

Initially, ten people died on the spot before the number started climbing after some of the wounded people died from their injuries.

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ISS, who employs the driver behind the gas tanker gave a detailed timeline of events of the fateful day on Christmas eve.

ISS Managing Director Arnoux Maré confirmed that the South African Police Services (SAPS) has released the driver of the truck due to insufficient evidence that the driver was negligent or at fault.

Earlier today, 28 December 2022, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) stated that there was no case against the driver as provincial police said there was not enough evidence against the driver.

Wrong turn

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Maré confirms that its internal investigation has thus far established the following facts:

  1. On 24 December 2022, the driver was en route from Richards Bay to Botswana.
  2. After overnighting for approximately 10 hours at an approved truck stop, the driver took the wrong exit to get onto the N17 highway. He immediately tried to correct himself to get back on route.
  3. The exit unfortunately directed him under the bridge.
  4. The bridge height restriction boards were illegible.
  5. As an experienced and responsible driver, he first stopped the vehicle to establish if the truck and trailer would fit under the bridge before he drove through carefully.
  6. Only when he was comfortable that the truck and trailer would make it under the bridge, he proceeded with caution.
  7. However, the driver did not realise that the incline at the bottom of the bridge would raise the back of the trailer.
  8. At approximately 06:15, the truck got stuck under the bridge, which caused the gas tanker to sustain damage which released liquified petroleum gas.
  9. When he heard a metal scraping sound, he immediately stopped the vehicle and jumped out. He first checked the front of the vehicle and could not detect any damage.
  10. When he inspected the back of the vehicle, he noticed that the tanker’s cap had been scraped off.
  11. He immediately called his ISS controller and informed them of the incident.
  12. The driver then called the fire department himself and alerted them of the incident and the gas leak.
  13. He immediately took the necessary action to cordon off the scene and to warn the public, motorists, and passer-by traffic to immediately leave the area.
  14. He managed to stop three vehicles, but others drove through his barricade and would not heed his warnings.
  15. A security vehicle stopped and helped him to put up safety tape behind the truck, while the driver ran to put up the safety tape ahead of the vehicle.
  16. When he realised that the security vehicle had not displayed the tape far enough from the back of the truck, he ran and pulled it off and moved it a couple of hundred meters further to keep people away from the scene.
  17. The driver kept shouting at people to leave the scene and even tried to physically move the gathering crowds out of the way.
  18. Two women witnessed his attempts and also tried to assist him. One also provided statements accordingly.
  19. Approximately 30 minutes after the truck got stuck, it ignited.
  20. The driver was eventually overcome by gas inhalation and lost consciousness. An ambulance collected him and drove him away before the truck exploded approximately 30 minutes later, claiming the lives of people.

Professional and experience

ISS Managing Director Arnoux Maré reiterates that the driver has a professional driving qualification in working at heights, approximately seven years of experience transporting hazardous materials, and is highly knowledgeable with regard to the risks associated with transporting hazardous materials.

He also stated that the driver holds a valid driver’s license valid until 13 January 2027, and Professional Driving Permit valid until 12 January 2024.

More on this story

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ISS says that its investigation findings will be handed over to the authorities.

“The owners of the specific liquified petroleum gas tanker, Infinite Group, is a reputable SQAS-accredited and reliable transport company with all systems, training, and procedures in place. For over a decade, Infinite has focused on providing specialised services across the cargo supply chain, as a fully licensed, accredited, and legally compliant South African company,” said Maré.

“We are deeply saddened by this horrific and tragic event that claimed people’s lives and left several injured. While we understand how difficult this time is, we also understand that people require answers, hence the detailed timeline above. Following urgent investigations, Innovative Staffing Solutions can confirm that the driver was not negligent and did everything in his power to alert people to the dangers of the situation. He demonstrated the utmost level of care and professionalism, and we thank him for his conscientious actions which potentially saved the lives of countless other people. Our deepest condolences and prayers to the families who lost loved ones,” concludes Maré.

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