Four pupils dead after bus plunges over Inanda cliff

2012-09-01 00:00

A BUS full of teenagers returning from an outing to Inanda plunged 150 metres down a cliff yesterday, killing four children and leaving dozens badly injured.

The accident took place on a bend in the Umzinyathi area near Ngonweni School just after 1 pm.

A scene of carnage greeted some 40 rescue officials who had to carry the injured one by one up the mountainside.

The area was strewn with belongings and wreckage, said Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha, who attended the scene.

“The tragic thing is seeing their toys lying on the mountainside,” said Botha, describing the task of rescuing and treating the children as “mammoth”.

The operation was slow and painstaking, and the paramedics were hampered by the rugged terrain.

Botha said the public pitched in to help carry 53 injured children to the top of the cliff where they could be treated. By 4.30 pm four passengers had been airlifted to various Durban hospitals, including Addington, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, King Edward and St Augustine’s.

Fourteen teenagers were in a critical condition and another 39 were treated for injuries that ranged from serious to minor.

Paramedics took them to nearby facilities like Inanda Clinic and Mahatma Gandhi Hospital.

The bus, which the Transport Department said was registered to a company in Mayville, Durban, was returning to Umzinto on the South Coast after a day-long excursion.

When Weekend Witness called the only listed transport company in

Mayville, the telephone operator denied the vehicle was theirs.

The rescuers said it seemed that the driver had lost control.

Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane supported their observation, saying early indications were that the driver had lost control of the bus as it rounded a bend, sending it over the cliff.

He confirmed the four fatalities and said an investigation would be launched.

“We can’t point fingers anywhere yet, but if it is because of human error, they will have to take responsibility.”

Ncalane said Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu offered his condolences to the families of the children who died and wished the injured passengers a speedy recovery.

Metro police and the Westville fire service were sent to the scene to assist a police search and rescue team.

A Metro spokesperson described the accident as “very bad”, saying that more than three hours after the accident workers were still scouring the wreckage for survivors.

Three helicopters were used to airlift the injured, one from the police and two from EMRS/AMS, from Durban and Richards Bay.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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