The father of a young woman who died in a motor vehicle accident in July on the N3 is still reeling with grief, but more because of claims that dead animal carcases were put in the mortuary van with his daughter and her friend.

Nirosh Shiram’s daughter Sadhna and her friend Sachin Govender tragically died in an accident on 8 July between the Tugela and Bergville toll plazas involving a truck carrying cattle. It has since emerged, and alleged, that officials at scene loaded that dead animals in the same mortuary van as the deceased.

Shiram says that this was a violation of human dignity and that their religious rights were violated, noting that cows hold a very sacred place in the Hindu religion and custom. “It is difficult to come to terms of how our kids were disrespected. Even the dead have rights, and here it showed disregard for individuals’ religion and customary beliefs,” he said.

Several animals either died or were put down at the scene of the collision. After the incident pictures and an alleged video were circulated on some social media platforms of Department of Health officials loading the dead animals onto the mortuary van while recovering the bodies of Shiram and Govender. It was also alleged that police at the scene were involved.

At the same time looters made their way to the accident scene and began helping themselves to the dead, dying and stray cows.

The Department of Health has not commented on the incident despite having been sent questions for comment on email, and neither has anyone responded to phone calls. Ladysmith police station’s communications officer, Captain Charmaine Struwig, said that they were aware of the incident and has looked into the allegations. “From the evidence presented to us, we can confirm that no police officials were involved in the incident.”

Durban-based Human rights lawyer and chairperson of the Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, gave his view though not exactly clarifying if the rights of the deceased were violated religiously or otherwise. “From both perspectives, one as a human rights lawyer, and the other of a Hindu religious leader, were the rights of the deceased violated as human beings and that of those who follow the Hindu faith?” said Trikamjee.

“Of course, the police and other officials on the scene would not have known the religion of the deceased, but the point remains whether this was a violation of basic human dignity?”

Shiram said that the act was harder to accept compared to the actual accident and the deaths of his daughter and her friend. “I am most certain that this is against all standing operating procedures and the staff acted purely for personal gain due to their selfishness and personal greed. I would take it that the carcasses were place on our kids. How can staff put animals with that of humans? This needs to be investigated fully. No family must go through what we had to face,” said Shiram.

He said that he heard of an internal hearing taking place soon, but that remains unconfirmed. A farmer, who lives close to the scene where the accident occurred, said that the owner of the cattle sustained huge losses.

Speaking on condition of anonymity he said that it was not only the dead cattle that were taken by looters but also the others that went astray after the accident. He claimed that some of his employees spoke of the money that was made from the meat of those animals.