FOUR Unki Mines employees died on the spot when a bus ferrying them from work plunged into Mutevekwi River in Shurugwi early yesterday morning.
The incident occurred at around 5AM, at Mutevekwi Bridge, approximately 9km from Unki Mine’s mining complex.Three employees who were critically injured were air-lifted to Harare Hospital while 65 others were admitted at various hospitals in Gweru and Shurugwi.
The bus, owned by a contract transport company, Scanlink (Private Limited), and hired by Unki, was ferrying night-duty employees who had just knocked off from the mine to Shurugwi and Gweru.
Villagers from Gutsaruzhinji resettlement area, about 400 meters from the accident scene, came to the rescue of the passengers who were trapped in the bus which landed on its roof.
Eyewitnesses told Chronicle that the driver lost control of the bus midway across the narrow bridge at Mutevekwi River, resulting in the bus crashing against the edges of the bridge and flipping before landing on its roof on the riverbed.
Edward Chaifa, a local villager, said: “It was around 5AM when I heard a loud burst coming from the direction of the river. Moments later I started hearing screams coming from the same direction as the trapped passengers were calling for help.
“I teamed up with other villagers and we rushed to the scene to investigate and that’s when we discovered the accident. We opened the sun roofs of the bus and exit panels and started rescuing the passengers who were trapped inside.”
He said an ambulance from Unki Mines arrived at the scene but could not immediately offer any assistance as the ambulance crew did not have a stretcher bed to carry the injured.
“Two other ambulances had to be called from Gweru and ZIMASCO in Shurugwi which managed to rush the injured to hospital,” he said.
A number of visibly shell-shocked villagers said Mutevekwi Bridge was slowly turning into a black spot due to the narrowness of the bridge which makes it difficult for motorists to navigate.
When a Chronicle news team arrived at the scene, the injured and the bodies had already been removed. Some Unki Mines employees could be seen making efforts to remove the wreckage of the bus from the scene using a crane.
National police spokesman Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said: “I can confirm that four Unki Mines employees were killed on their way home from work when a bus they were travelling in plunged into Mutevekwi River at around 5AM today (yesterday).
“Three others were critically injured and were flown to Harare for treatment. The other 65 are being treated at Gweru Provincial Hospital, Midlands Private Hospital, Clay Bank Clinic and Shurugwi District Hospital.”
Chief Supt Nyathi said investigations to establish the cause of the accident were under way. He urged drivers to exercise caution on the country’s roads to avoid loss of life.
Meanwhile, Unki Mine’s general manager Walter Nemasasi has sent condolences to the bereaved families.
Said Nemasasi: “I’m deeply saddened by this tragic accident involving our employees. I extend my heartfelt condolences to the deceased families. We will work hand-in-hand with authorities to determine the cause of the accident.”
He said Unki Mines would conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine the cause of the accident. The accident comes barely two weeks after Unki Mines marked two million fatality-free shifts since August 2004.
At the beginning of this month, four other people were killed in the same district when a Zupco bus that had 28 passengers on board was swept away when after plunging into a flooded Musavezi River along the Shurugwi-Mhandamabwe Road.