South Africa train crash kills at least 26

By EMOKE BEBIAK and KIM CHAKANETSA | July 13, 2012 | 2:43 PM EDT

Emergency services personal attend to an injured man at the site of a train crash at Mpumalanga, South Africa, Friday, July 13, 2012. Over twenty people are confirmed dead with some 25 injured, some critically, following a collision between a train and a truck carrying farm labourers.(AP Photo) SOUTH AFRICA OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A cargo train collided with a truck carrying farm workers at a crossing in South Africa Friday, killing at least 26 people and leaving bodies strewn across the scene of the accident, officials said.

Provincial spokesman Joseph Mabuza said at least 25 others were injured in the accident in Mpumalanga, an eastern province, which highlighted once more South Africa's problems with road safety.

The truck driver, who was trying to cross the tracks but apparently miscalculated the speed of the approaching train, was arrested late Friday, he added. The truck was carrying about 50 farm workers when it was hit by the train carrying coal.

Traffic accidents with high death tolls are common in South Africa, and are often blamed on negligent drivers and badly maintained roads.

According to Gary Ronald, a spokesman of the Automobile Association of South Africa, one million crashes are reported annually, leading to about 14,000 fatalities.

Ronald said the country needs to implement a strategy to lower its high level of fatal road accidents.

"To turn it around is going to be one hell of a job," Ronald said.

He added a lack of effective policing and an increased number of vehicles on the roads are some of the factors contributing to the high death tolls.

"South Africa is getting further and further away from a resolution for road safety," Ronald said. "For most South Africans there are no consequences for breaking the law."

Friday's accident came less than a month after a bus crash left 19 people dead in Johannesburg.

"The accident was messy," said government spokesman Thulani Sibuyi describing heads and limbs severed from bodies. The death toll rose to 26 by late Friday, said Malusi Gigaba, South Africa's Minister of Public Enterprises.

In 2010, a man driving 14 children to school evaded barriers at a crossing near Cape Town and a train crashed into it, killing 10 of his young passengers. The driver was convicted of murder in the deaths of the students and attempted murder in the case of the four surviving children. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Transportation officials hailed the tough charges and sentence, saying that could help deter reckless driving.