Deadly train derailment

Eileen van der Schyff

The last of four locomotives will be cleared from the scene of the train derailment in Swakopmund that claimed the life on Tuesday of 32-year-old assistant train operator Wilhelm Nongameni Joseph (pictured). All railway carriages will also be cleared by the weekend.

The train operator that was killed in a massive trail derailment in Swakopmund on Tuesday was named as 32-year-old Wilhelm Nongameni Joseph, an assistant locomotive operator.
An extensive investigation is ongoing by TransNamib to establish the cause of the accident that rendered four locomotives out of service and at least 18 cargo rail carriages heavily damaged. A total of 38 carriages were connected to the train.
Preliminary indications are the heavy-laden cargo train entered Swakopmund at an exceptionally high speed. The derailment took place at a sharp bend very close to the Swakopmund station. The investigation has to establish whether indeed speed played a role, whether the train’s brake-system was functioning properly or whether human error is at play. Investigators also hope to get statements from eyewitnesses as well as railway technical experts, a source close to the recovery operations told Namib Times on Thursday.
Joseph was seated on the right-hand side of his locomotive’s compartment and was flung from the locomotive in the split seconds of the derailment. The locomotive fell on him, and he was killed instantly. A recovery operation to retrieve Joseph’s body took well into the dark hours of Tuesday night.
At the time of going to press yesterday, crane operator Walvis Bay Plant & Tool Hire managed to recover two of the four derailed locomotives. The two locomotives were pulled away from the scene. The recovery of the remaining two locomotives is expected to conclude today (Friday) and personnel hopes to have all the rail-way coaches cleared this weekend.

As soon as the wrecked locomotives and carriages are cleared from the scene, extensive rehabilitation work has to commence on an estimated 200 metres of railway line that was either totally destroyed or damaged. The rehabilitation works include clearing the scene from chemicals like fuel and cargo that spilled during the derailment, compacting the area, the laying of new railway track as well as ballast work to ensure the line is stable to carry weight.
In the meantime, the Chairman of the Erongo Regional Council, Cllr Ciske Smith-Howard cautioned TransNamib and the local authority of Swakopmund this week that this particular bend in the railway, where the derailment took place, was an accident in the wait.

She urged the relevant authorities to use this opportunity to rectify the situation by softening the bend and to ensure that safety measures are put in place to prevent similar accidents in the future.
Smith-Howard went as far as suggesting Trans-Namib should relocate the railway line away from built-up areas.
∙TransNamib at the time of going to press has not yet issued a statement to release more specific details to confirm how many train personnel were on the train at the time of the accident and what cargo the train was carrying.


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