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S. Africa bus crash driver jailed

LYDENBURG, South Africa -- The driver of a bus which crashed in South Africa killing 27 British tourists and a South African tour guide has been jailed for six years.

Magistrate Andries Lambrecht said Titus Dube had acted with "gross negligence" when the bus hurtled off a mountain pass in Lydenburg in September 1999.

"There is a growing perception that the criminal justice system is not doing enough to protect citizens and visitors from abroad from crime, even when the crime is negligent," Lambrecht said.

Dube's defence lawyer said that they were considering an appeal.

The 43-year-old bus driver, who pleaded guilty to culpable homicide three weeks ago, showed no emotion as the sentence was read out in the Lydenburg courthouse.

Both the defence and prosecution had argued that Dube, who said he might have pressed the accelerator while trying to find the brake, was not grossly negligent and therefore did not deserve to go to prison.

The state prosecutor had urged the magistrate to impose a suspended sentence.

'Faulty brakes'

Dube, a father-of-five, had told the courts that his brakes had failed but when it was found that the brakes were not faulty he said he may have hit the accelerator by mistake when he meant to apply the brakes.

His defence argued that when he missed the brake, Dube did not hear the sound of the bus speeding up, because the engine was sound-proofed at the rear of the vehicle.

But Lambrecht said Dube should have engaged lower gears when he approached the pass.

"Given his 20 years of driving experience, Dube should have realised that he had hit the accelerator and should have used the emergency brake to bring the bus to a halt," Lambrecht said.

The bus reached a speed of 118 kph (73 mph) before crashing 86 metres (yards) down an embankment, leaving bodies strewn around the wreckage.

Nine people, including Dube, were injured in the accident.

"One (survivor) is still in a coma fighting for her life ... the others are struggling physically and psychologically," Lambrecht said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

South African bus crash kills 20 holiday travelers
December 24, 2000

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