Pretoria – A woman pushed out of an overcrowded train at a station must be compensated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
The high court in Pretoria ruled Prasa liable for the damages suffered by Onnicah Chauke.
She broke bones in her leg, fractured an elbow and suffered other injuries when she fell from the train on to the tracks.
Chauke had been on her way to work in Isando on December 29, 2012.
The court heard that it was early in the morning and the train was so full there were no seats.
She stood between the seats, holding on to a railing with her right hand, her handbag in her left, an arm’s length from the door which was open.
She described the crowd as being so tightly packed “you could not even see the shoes you were wearing”.
Just before the carriage she was in reached the platform at Kaalfontein Station, the door open, commuters in the train who wanted to catch the Pretoria connection, started pushing each other.
In the process they pushed her, causing her to lose her grip.
She fell through the open door of the moving train on the side opposite the platform.
Counsel for Prasa told Chauke that as she had been using the train for eight years, she should have realised it was not safe to board a train when it was full and the doors were open.
Rather, Prasa said, she should have waited for the next train.
But Chauke said Prasa reduced the number of trains in December, which meant the waiting time in-between trains were long.
Chauke said she had no choice; had she waited for the next train she would have been late for work.
She used a monthly train ticket and did not have money for a taxi.
The train guards who testified said they did not witness the incident. They also denied that the train was full, as most factories along the route were closed during the December holidays.
They did concede that there were fewer trains running at that time of year than other times because of the holidays.
One witness suggested that Chauke had voluntarily jumped out of the moving train herself in an attempt to â€œeasily exit the stationâ€.
Acting Judge JA Motepe, however, accepted Chauke’s version that the train had been full.
Even one of Prasa’s other witnesses conceded that the train was overcrowded.
The judge also rejected the suggestion that she jumped out of the train herself, as the incident did not take place at the station to which she was headed.
The judge said that Prasa should have foreseen that allowing an overcrowded train to move with its doors open might lead to a commuter falling and getting injured.
It was found Prasa had done nothing to guard against this happening.
The amount of damages payable to Chauke will be determined at a later stage.
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