Race to identify accident victims

HARARE - Authorities are working with the National University of Science and Technology (Nust)’s Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) to try and identify deceased victims of last Thursday night’s horror road accident in Gwanda who were burnt beyond recognition.

AGTC director, Zephaniah Dhlamini, told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that the centre had already started collecting samples to allow it to conduct DNA tests.

Nust was working with government pathologists — who were responsible for identifying the age and gender of the deceased — ahead of AGTC conducting DNA tests.

“The DNA identification process of severely burnt bodies, where only bones are left, will take some time as we try to isolate their DNA through blood stains, fibre muscles and bones.

“But we expect to be done with everything within a period of about two weeks,” Dhlamini said — adding that the identification process would require DNA samples from close relatives of the deceased, as well as their personal belongings such as toothbrushes and combs for matching tests.

“Although siblings and fathers are also compatible for the tests, in cases where mothers are not available, we ideally encourage mothers to come through.

“The problem with fathers and siblings sometimes is that the DNA can fail to match simply because the alleged father, for example, may not be the real father of the deceased — which causes complications in the identification process,” he said further.

The costs of the DNA tests would be met by the Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (ICZ).

Meanwhile, condolence messages for the bereaved families continue to pour in from shocked Zimbabweans, including from the country’s main opposition.

“We share their pain, and our thoughts and prayers are with these families. We pray for strength and comfort in these trying times,” MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said.

In this latest tragic and horror road accident, 42 people were burnt beyond recognition, while 26 others were seriously injured when the bus they were travelling in caught fire and exploded near West Nicholson.

It is suspected that the tragedy was caused by a leaking gas cylinder among the bus’s luggage.

This tragedy came hard on the heels of another horrendous accident which claimed 46 lives when two buses collided in Rusape.

Police have said the Brooklyn Express bus was travelling from Zvishavane to South Africa on Thursday night when it caught fire and was reduced to a complete wreck along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge highway.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa immediately sent a message of condolences and support to the families of all the deceased and the injured.

“We will ensure they get the care and support they require,” he said on Twitter — with the government later declaring the accident a national disaster and setting aside $15 000 to assist the bereaved families.

National police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, said investigations into the incident were still under way.

The managing director of Brooklyn Express, Nqobile Ndlovu, has said they are gutted by the loss of lives and the injuries suffered by passengers who were aboard their bus.

“We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the relatives and families of the deceased whose lives were lost in the accident.

“We would like to also extend our sincere apologies to Zimbabwe as a whole and we stand in prayer with the bereaved families, praying for strength while we all try to come to terms with what has happened.

“To those who were injured, we wish you a speedy recovery,” Ndlovu said.

Zimbabwe has in recent years witnessed a surge in horror accidents which have often been blamed on human error.

In April, 13 people perished while 31 were seriously injured when a Chawasarira bus collided with a commuter omnibus outside Kadoma.

A King Lion bus killed 43 people and injured 30 others when it was involved in a horrendous accident in June last year — just outside Karoi.

The accident occurred a few weeks after 31 people, mainly cross-border traders, were burnt beyond recognition when a South Africa-bound Proliner bus they were travelling in was side-swiped by a haulage truck and caught fire at Nyamatikiti River, in Chirumanzu.

In another grisly accident in March 2017, a grieving Bulawayo family was hit by double tragedy when 13 of its members were killed on the spot in a horrific accident when their minibus, which was ferrying the body of a deceased relative for burial in Masvingo, was mangled by a haulage truck near Nust.

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