Divers search for more bodies

2011-08-24 14:00

Johannesburg - Seventeen people died, 16 of them children, and 42 were injured when a school bus plunged off a bridge and into a dam in Knysna on Wednesday, said Western Cape police.

"A police dive team remains on-scene to secure that all passengers are accounted for but at this stage it appears that all are accounted for," said Captain Malcolm Pojie.

"Forty-two children have been taken to hospital and are being treated for minor injuries and shock."

The children were pupils at the Rheenendal Primary School and were on their way to school at the time of the crash.

Search continues

"We not sure how many children were on the bus. We are retrieving it from the water and divers will continue to search for more bodies. The bus plunged off a lower bridge into a river that appears to have flooded during the night by heavy rainfall," Pojie said.

Emergency services spokesperson Kerry Davids said all the children were between the ages of 7 and 14. She said the 42 injured were taken to hospital with back and neck pain, and mild hypothermia.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was shocked at the deaths.

"The department of basic education would like to send sincere condolences to the families of the learners, and indeed the entire schooling community," she said in a statement.

Social workers and psychologists were on the scene counselling parents, school staff and children.

Unnecessary loss of lives

At least 60 people had died in six separate accidents this month, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said in a statement.

"We cannot go on like this. This horrific road crash in Knysna... is yet again an unnecessary loss of lives," he said.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation has sent an accident investigation team and reconstruction specialists to assist the investigation into the crash.

"We want to convey condolences to the families and colleagues of those killed, and wish the injured a speedy recovery," Ndebele said.

Earlier, ER24 spokesperson Andre Visser said the driver lost control of the bus and it rolled into the dam.

"The only part of the bus sticking out of the water is the rear."

Savagely punished

Police divers, paramedics and emergency services were on the scene.

Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle said he was on his way to Knysna.

"We will obviously be there to find out the facts, to assist wherever we can and to ensure that if there has been any negligence or irresponsibility, that those found guilty will be savagely punished.

"This is an unspeakable tragedy and a bitter blow coming one day from the anniversary tomorrow of the Blackheath taxi crash that killed 10 children, on August 25 last year," he said.

The children died when their minibus taxi was hit by a train after jumping a line of stopped cars at a level crossing at Blackheath in Cape Town.

Carlisle said he was being accompanied by Education MEC Donald Grant, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, and Finance MEC Allan Winde.

  • Dash - 2011-08-24 14:20

    OMG, my heartfelt and sincere condolences to the bereaved families and friends. May the good Lord guard their wonderful souls.

  • Toetsen - 2011-08-24 14:22

    Unspeakable tragedy indeed...may the Lord almighty,our Heavenly Father,console & comfort all the families that are grieving at this dark hour that has befallen the Knysna community.May the souls of the departed Rest in Eternal Peace.

  • jules - 2011-08-24 14:23

    very sad, condolences to the families and friends.

  • James Weather - 2011-08-24 14:25

    So sad .... Rest in Peace ...

  • FFS - 2011-08-24 14:28

    Terrible. Brings back memories of another equally tragic school bus accident where children died; Hoerskool Vorentoe, Westdene Dam, 1985. I was on my way home from Wits University when I came upon the terrible scene. I will never forget it.

  • Winsome - 2011-08-24 14:34

    Dreadful news indeed - RIP - and condolences to the poor parents of these children.

  • Donald - 2011-08-24 14:34

    For me this tragedy is reminiscent of the Westdene bus disaster in 1985 which left the country aghast. I'm feeling the same sense of shock. The pain and grief being experience at this moment by the family and friends is incomprehensible. The country grieves with you. Heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved one.

  • Serame - 2011-08-24 14:42

    Very sad..My sincere condolences goes out to the affected families and the school community.This is the worst thing that can happen to any child and parent..may the Lord give them strength to cope during this difficult time...

  • Tumi - 2011-08-24 14:43


  • OnlyAsking - 2011-08-24 14:47

    "Savagely punished", Robin? With apologies if you have been quoted out of context, but do you not think that this could possibly be nothing but a tragic accident? Surely it goes without saying that if there is negligence, the consequences of that will be dire? I ponder the value of the panicked schoolmaster approach at this time, and whether a caring thought for the bereaved might have been a rather more appropriate response from you.

      Johnny - 2011-08-24 15:19

      "savagely" means "like a savage". I too don't understand what Robin Carlisle sought to convey, if correctly quoted. Will the punishment be meted out by a savage? or will it be done the way a savage would? The mind boggles. One's thoughts should at this point rather be with the families than with those responsible for the trgedy.

  • Aramis - 2011-08-24 14:47

    Condolences and thoughts of support all round - I live in Sedgefield and know the Rheenendal area and its' people well. It is a beautiful area and a closely-knit community, this horror is so remote from their existence, it will be a terrible shock. I for one, will pray for them.

  • Poopypants - 2011-08-24 14:51

    RIP little children. Sincere condolences to their families. Very Sad!!

  • Poopypants - 2011-08-24 14:58

    RIP Little Children. Sincere condolences to their families. Very Sad!!

  • Jason - 2011-08-24 14:59

    Looking at the helicopter picture, IT DOES NOT APPEAR TO ME THAT THERE ARE ANY BARRIERS FOR THE BUS TO HAVE GONE THROUGH...Mr Transport minister. Those lives were worth more than anything!!! The pain will never go away for those parents, May you get devine support.

  • Johnny - 2011-08-24 15:02

    "savagely" punished???? condolences to the families; what a sad,sad,unnecessary loss

  • nobokjoy - 2011-08-24 15:19

    colin is untouched by what happened to those kids.he wants to go throw his weight around where he is not needed.they only wants to do things after it has happened.R.I.P.little angels/

  • jane.triegaardt - 2011-08-24 17:49

    These are OUR forestry workers' children. My entire being is aching for these parents and families. It is a notorious bend we drive daily, and indications are, the driver was not at fault. Rest in peace, our little angels. Please think of all our forest family tonight,

      Janet - 2011-08-24 22:35

      oh Jane how true, stop blaming the driver until you have driven the road but more importantly stop pointing fingers and for once just try and support OUR folk that are hurting

  • Jacqueline - 2011-08-25 02:21

    Not to be fussy, but I'm sure the police divers are "ensuring" and not "securing" that all the bodies are found. And how can ALL 42 passengers be treated for minor injuries if 16 people died? Again shoddy reporting by News24. Sincerest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this horrible tragedy.

  • pages:
  • 1