Bergville bus tragedy

2012-09-17 00:00

THE heartbroken parents and grandparents of 10 primary school children killed near Bergville on Saturday night gathered at the Okhahlamba Local Municipality offices yesterday.

The children, all pupils at Okhombe Primary, were travelling home at about 7 pm from a sports outing to Cwembe Primary in Matiwaneskop, near Ladysmith, when their taxi hit a stray cow and crashed through a bridge railing to plunge into the rain-swollen Venterstroom about 10 metres below.

Nine children and the driver of the taxi, Siso Mvula, died at the scene. The body of another pupil, Hlengiwe Dlamini (12), was found washed further down the river yesterday morning. Six children survived the accident with minor to moderate injuries.

Hlengiwe’s father, Jethro Dlamini, had been driving one of the minibuses hired by the school to transport the children.

He told The Witness yesterday that all the vehicles were travelling in convoy.

“They were probably driving a few kilometres ahead of me. I passed the bridge and saw that a car had gone over. I pulled over to see what had happened and saw the taxi was in the river.

“Now my daughter is no longer here,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini and other parents met Transport MEC Willies Mchunu and Education MEC Senzo Mchunu. They were briefed, among other things, about the Road Accident Fund and how they could claim. The families have yet to decide whether a joint or separate funeral will be held for their children.

Mchunu said there was no indication whether the driver was speeding, but that the wet conditions and poor visibility had played major a role in the accident.

The parents were given lunch after they were addressed by the MECs. But in front of Busisiwe Shezi lay an untouched plate of chicken and rice. The mother of 11-year-old Nolwazi could not bring herself to eat or sleep since the death of her daughter.

She wept and trembled she tried to speak to The Witness.

“I was at work when I called my aunt to find out what had happened to my daughter. When I heard my aunt cry, my body went cold and I dropped my phone,” she said. Shezi could not hold back her tears as she said her daughter only went on the trip to support her schoolmates. She was not part of the sports team.

“She was such a bright child, always happy, and she had dreams of becoming a doctor,” she said.

Phindile Dlamini’s daughter, Phumelele Miya (11), dreamt of becoming a nurse in the hope of one day being able to help people who were ill.

“She was very bright at school. We knew that one day she would be able to help the family out of our financial difficulty,” she said.

Mabel Mbhele wept as she told The Witness that her family too had not slept since the loss of her granddaughter, Hlobisile Mbhele (11).

“Her father had to go to the mortuary to identify her body. It is a very painful experience to lose her. We welcome any support we can get for the loss of our child,” she said.

Bayanda Mlambo remembered his nephew, Kwanele Mlambo, as an avid soccer player who was returning from playing a match for the school when he died.

“He loved soccer and he was always very good at his school work. It is a very sad time for our family especially since he was so young,” he said.

• kyle.venktess@witness.co.za

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