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Vineyard workers killed in South African train tragedy

Published:  23 July, 2008

At least 19 South African vineyard labourers were killed and 12 injured when a truck taking them to work was hit by a train.

The accident took place last Monday at an ungated level crossing, 40km south-east of Cape Town. Preliminary reports have alleged that the driver ignored the warning signals and proceeded to cross the level crossing but stalled. No one on the train was hurt and the truck driver survived.

All the labourers were contract workers at Ridgemore Farm near Faure. One of the injured, Jonathan de Wee, said: I could jump, but my mother did not make it. She died.'

A staff member at Ridgemore, who wished to remain anonymous, told the South Africa Press Association: This is a terrible day. It is a great disaster - they were just innocently coming to work.'

The South African wine council and wine industry trust issued a joint statement, saying: It is our responsibility as an industry as a whole to ensure that those performing their daily tasks can do so in an environment which is safe the South African wine industry cannot hold its head high after seeing such a disaster on its doorstep.'

Speaking to Harpers, Su Birch, CEO of Wines of South Africa, reiterated this point: Farm worker safety is a huge priority for WIETA (Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association) and this highlights there is still much work to be done in raising awareness, and in education and training.'

Train operator Metrorail has launched an investigation with the independent Rail Safety Regulator to determine the cause of the crash.