Rail agency not liable for passenger's fall from moving train

© Provided by Pretoria News

Pretoria – A commuter’s claim that negligence by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) caused him to fall from a moving train shortly before it reached a station was dismissed by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria yesterday.

The incident occurred in July 2017.

Justice Zihor told the court he fell from the train while it was approaching the platform at Kopanong station in Soshanguve. As a result, he broke three bones in his left leg.

He said he had a valid ticket and was travelling from Mabopane to Pretoria.

Before the train reached Kopanong, he said, some passengers from the back coaches of the train came through to the coach he was in. As a result of the pressure from these passengers, he was pushed through an open door of the coach and fell out before the train reached the platform.

He testified that he fell on top of a concrete slab alongside the railway tracks.

According to Zihor, the train had no doors and windows, or straps to hold on to. He did not remember what happened after he fell and only woke up in hospital the following day.

Zihor said that when he fell from the train, there were a number of people, including passengers on the train, who saw him fall, but he could not identify anyone.

He claimed that he had boarded the train around lunch time, but it only departed at around 3pm.

He told the court that Prasa was negligent because it had failed to maintain the train and ensure the safety of its passengers.

However, paramedics said Zihor was fully conscious when they arrived at the scene, and spoke to them.

According to the paramedics, the incident happened at night, as they were only called to the scene after 8pm. They found Zihor lying on the ground next to the tracks.

They testified that they could at first not locate the injured man at the station, but later found him some distance away.

Zihor had claimed he was pushed out at the platform of the station as the other commuters tried to rush out of the doors.

A Prasa security officer told the court that after the fall, Zihor told him that he had boarded the train at Mabopane station. When he realised that it was not going to stop at Kopanong, he opened the doors while the train was in motion and decided to jump off.

Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi found that given the time of the fall, when the emergency services were called to the scene, Zihor could not have been on the train he claimed he was on.

Further, he was on a non-passenger train, which did not stop at any of the stations it passed on its journey.

The judge said Zihor was an unimpressive witness, particularly when taking into account inconsistencies in his evidence.

He could not explain how he boarded the train at around 2pm, yet the fall only happened later that night.

She accepted Prasa’s version that he illegally boarded a non-passenger train that evening, and when he realised it did not stop where he wanted to disembark, he simply jumped off.

Pretoria News

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