Officials retrieving bus from river
Lauren Hess, News24
Cape Town - Rescue personnel are trying to retrieve the school bus that plunged into a river in Knysna, Western Cape police and emergency officials said on Wednesday.
"The only part of the bus sticking out of the water is the rear," ER24’s Andre Visser said.
The death toll from the disaster now stands at 17, with 16 of the fatalities being children and the other being the bus driver, provincial authorities confirmed just after midday.
Some of the parents of the deceased children have been notified. The victims were aged between 7 and 16, said ER24’s Andre Visser.
Forty-two children were being treated at hospitals in the area, mainly for shock and minor injuries, he said.
Police spokesperson Captain Malcolm Potje told News24 he could also not say if the death toll would rise as they were unsure if there were more bodies submerged under the water.
Children all at one school
The accident happened just before 08:00 when the vehicle “went through the barrier” of a bridge and plunged into a river while on its way to Rheenendal Primary School.
All the children attended the school.
An official at the school, speaking on condition of anonymity, told News24 that classes were continuing on Wednesday.
Western Cape transport MEC Robin Carlisle was on his way to Knysna, Sapa reported.
"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 (Thursday) of the Blackheath taxi crash that killed 10 children, on August 25 last year," he said.
The children died when their minibus taxi jumped a line of stopped cars at a level crossing at Blackheath in Cape Town. It was hit by an oncoming train.
Carlisle said he was being accompanied by education MEC Donald Grant, community safety MEC Dan Plato, and finance MEC Allan Winde.
- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts