Speeding blamed for fatal KZN bus crash

2013-04-25 08:05
The bus which crashed in KwaZulu-Natal, killing eight pupils. (Skhumbuzo Miya, The Witness)

The bus which crashed in KwaZulu-Natal, killing eight pupils. (Skhumbuzo Miya, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The driver of a KwaZulu-Natal school bus that crashed, killing eight pupils, was allegedly speeding and ignored warnings to slow down on the wet road.

He lost control while going down a hill on the P487 near Ulundi and crashed on a bend on the road late on Tuesday night.

Eight pupils from Zamimpilo Special School died on the scene, five were critically injured, nine were less seriously hurt and 20 had minor injuries. The injured were taken to the nearby kwaCeza Hospital.

Speeding

The teachers and pupils were returning to their school from the Disability Sports KZN Cluster Games in Richards Bay.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu told The Witness that the school principal, Bheki Xulu, had told him he phoned one of the teachers to find out how far they were on their way back to school.

“He was told that they were 15 minutes away from their school and that the driver of the bus was speeding,” said Mchunu.

The teacher had said the driver was not happy about being warned to slow down.

The MEC said he was deeply saddened by the death of the pupils.

“We send our deepest condolences to their families and we pray that they find strength during this very difficult period. We would also like to wish a speedy recovery to those who are in hospital.”

Mchunu said the police were investigating an allegation that the driver was under the influence of alcohol.

He added that the trip had been authorised by the education department.

Service, new tyres

Xulu told The Witness that the school bus had undergone a full service and had been fitted with new tyres just before Easter.

He said that when the bus was travelling downhill on the road near the hospital, it failed to engage low gear, the engine cut out and the driver lost control.

Zululand District Mayor Zanele Magwaza-Msibi said she was shocked to learn of the crash, which had happened just a few days after an accident that claimed five lives in Melmoth last week.

She said the district municipality was prepared to help the affected families.

Zululand district spokesperson Skhumbuzo Miya said at the scene on Wednesday that parents and relatives were crying hysterically.

He said the wrecked bus was spattered with blood.

Some of the pupils were partly blinded, some deaf and others physically disabled.

“Some who are mentally challenged don’t understand what’s happening.”

He said the driver was in hospital under police guard.

When the driver lost control, the bus fell onto its left side, sliding along the road before coming back onto its wheels again, he added. Rocks had prevented it from rolling on to its right side.

He said all the pupils were boarders and that their parents were not at the scene.

Crashes cost SA R306bn a year

Transport Minister Dikobe Ben Martins said an accident specialist had been appointed to assist with the investigation of the crash.

“Road traffic crashes cost our country’s economy approximately R306bn a year.

“This does not take into account the terrible pain and anguish of the parents and relatives of those that are killed.”

Martins said the only way to stop irresponsible behaviour on the country’s roads was to impose harsher penalties on motorists who disregarded the rules of the road.

“At present road crashes are reportedly the leading cause of death among the 15-29 age group. By 2015, it is projected to be the leading cause of death in the 5-15 age group, causing more deaths even than HIV and malaria.”

Alcohol abuse caused half of these injuries and deaths.

Police spokesperson Thulani Zwane said a case of culpable homicide was being investigated and no arrests has been made.

Read more on:    ben martins  |  pietermaritzburg  |  accidents
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