Screams, sobs at memorial service for crash victims

2015-09-03 14:55

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Willowvale - As the names of the passengers who died in Saturday's gruesome bus crash near Butterworth were read out, the screams of their loved ones rose above the soft melody sung at the memorial service on Thursday.

Family members sobbed uncontrollably and others were so distraught that they collapsed inside the marquee and paramedics brought in stretchers to take them outside to treat them.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has asked the families, who lost loved ones in a horrific bus accident near Butterworth on Saturday, to approach the Road Accident Fund directly when making claims instead of unscrupulous lawyers who take a big chunk of the money.

Peters was speaking during the memorial service of 35 victims of the bus crash. The bus veered off the road on Saturday and plunged downhill into a riverbank. Most of its passengers, including children, died.

“I want to say to the families, there will be people who will come making lots of promises. I am begging you, no matter how confused you are, do not speak to lawyers, rather speak to your councillors, mayors and government officials to show you where the Road Accident Fund offices are," Peters said.

“These people will promise to help you with your claims, but ultimately they will take away all the compensation you get for your loss.”

Peters said there are Road Accident Fund offices in every province and representatives in institutions, such as the nearby hospital.

‘Watch who you speak to’

“Do not speak to just anybody, because in cases like these the bulk of the money goes to lawyers and not the affected families. You will find that children are going hungry and destitute when government has actually paid money for them to be taken care of,” Peters said.

Peters, who spoke on behalf of President Jacob Zuma and the national government, said August 29 was one of the country's “darkest moments”.

This, she said, was also because it was the day of another horrific accident in which 10 people in a minibus-taxi were killed on the road between Cradock and Graaff-Reinet.

Peters said government and the Road Traffic Management Cooperation have taken a resolution for traffic officers to be trained extensively, from one year to three years.

Government, she said, is working to ensure that traffic officers are available around the clock and they are being integrated into the police force in a bid to reduce carnage on the road.

There are plans to change the rules pertaining to drunk drivers. This will mean changing the schedule 3 offence they face at present and elevating it to a schedule 5 offence, making it more difficult for them to get bail.

“Many times people who drink and drive are equal to murderers. We want to make sure we reduce the number of deaths on our roads,” Peters said.

She appealed to the public to use their seat belts in vehicles.

‘Worst the Eastern Cape has seen’

Premier Phumulo Masualle described the accident as a horrific and the worst the Eastern Cape has ever experienced. 

He said the whole of government was affected by the accident and called for the families not to dwell on the past but to focus on their future.

He said those who lost their loved ones are heroes of the nation as their names will forever be remembered in the history of Nqabara.

The premier promised to be with the families during their hour of need and to help them after the funerals.

“We will help you in whichever way we can, even though we might not be able to bring back your loved ones. Things such as these should make us strong and united,” he said.

Read more on:    east london  |  accidents

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