Briton throws butt and goes on trial accused of starting fire which killed tourist

A Briton threw a cigarette butt onto dry grass. The runaway fire engulfed Table Mountain and killed another British tourist.

The testimony came Tuesday, the opening day of the much-delayed trial of Anthony Cooper, accused of starting the January 2006 fire on one of South Africa's best known landmarks. Cooper is accused of culpable homicide and violating the National Forestry Act.

An elderly British tourist, Janet Chesworth, died of smoke inhalation. South African officials said the death toll would have been much higher if high winds had not closed the cable car transporting people to the mountaintop.

Taxi driver Craig Ward told the court he was parked near the lower cable car station at the waiting for possible customers. He noticed Cooper walking down the slope.

"He threw his leftover cigarette onto the dry grass and within seconds a flame started due to the condition of the grass and strong winds," Ward testified, according to the South African Press Association.

The trial was initially due to start in August but was delayed by an administrative bungle in South Africa's overcrowded court system.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova