The incident in which two teenagers were hit by a train, between Retreat and Steenberg stations last week, is still being investigated and it is hoped that more light will be shed by footage from surveillance cameras.
Charles “Stubborn” Gates, 16, was killed by the train while his friend Jason Carelse, 15, was critically injured at the White Road railcrossing on Wednesday June 22.
Margeret Gates was at work in Lavender Hill, where she looks after children at a crèche, when she received the news about her son’s death.
“My neighbour fetched me at work and didn’t want to tell me what happened, but I knew it was something serious. When we got close to the accident scene he told me that ‘Stubborn’ was hit by a train and he died. I didn’t want to believe him,” said Ms Gates.
Ms Gates, from Kaveladorp, an informal settlement in Nectar Road, Retreat, identified her son’s body at the scene.
“I had to see for myself and make sure that it was him. His body was intact but his skull at the back of his head was open. He died on impact,” she said.
Ms Gates believes the boys were caught off-guard when the train hit them.
“From what I understand, they were on Stubborn’s bicycle when the beams at the crossing went down. At that moment there were two trains approaching the rail crossing, one from Cape Town and one from Simon’s Town, but they didn’t know that there were two,” she said.
“They saw the train from Simon’s Town coming but didn’t pay attention to the one coming from Cape Town and rode over the track. That’s when the train hit them,” said Ms Gates.
“It is a cruel way to die but I take solace in the fact that Charles died on impact, he didn’t suffer,” said Ms Gates.
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Charles’ sister, Chrystal Gates saw her brother just a few minutes before he was killed.
“I wanted to give him the key to our home and shouted out to him but he couldn’t hear me. I turned the corner and went to the shop. A few minutes later someone told me that two boys were knocked by a train, and the ‘really dark’ one died. I knew that it was my brother,” said Chrystal.
“I ran to the scene screaming for help but he was already gone,” she said.
Chrystal and her mother said they will miss Charles.
“He became the man of the house when his father died a few years ago. He was a hard worker, doing garden work and odd jobs for people in the neighbourhood and he was a good child to me. I miss him so much and life will be very different without him,” said Ms Gates.
Kirstenhof Police spokesperso, Deidre Solomon said a case of culpable homicide was being investigated.
Metrorail’s Riana Scott said the incident was reported at around noon on Wednesday and police and emergency services took control of the accident scene, leaving just one line in operation.
“Police are investigating and will shed light on the cause of the accident,” said Ms Scott.
Asked if footage from CCTV camera at the White Road crossing will be used in the investigation, she said hopefully the police will have access to the images as it is a private company in partnership with the City of Cape Town and the Provincial Transport and Public Works department who are in charge of the CCTV.
The pilot project launched in 2012 was launched to specifically target and prosecute level crossing offences.
Asked if pedestrian safety measures are in place at the level, crossing Ms Scott said the crossing was indeed compliant with statutory and legal requirements.
“White Road level crossing has booms and road traffic signage. Drivers and pedestrians should note that road signage and lights at level crossings are the primary indicators – booms are affixed as additional barriers,” she said.
Ms Scott adds that the train driver could not avoid the accident.
“It is important to bear in mind that trains operate on fixed infrastructure. They are unable to take evasive action during emergencies. A full train will take up to 500 meters to stop under emergency conditions. We await the outcome of the police investigation,” she said.