Verena crash survivor relives horrific ordeal

2017-05-10 09:02
An elderly lady is consoled during the funeral service of 16 children and a general assistant who passed away in a taxi accident in Verena, Mpumalanga. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

An elderly lady is consoled during the funeral service of 16 children and a general assistant who passed away in a taxi accident in Verena, Mpumalanga. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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Pretoria – Lying on the side of the road, reeling from the pain of his broken arm, 15-year-old Omphile Molepo watched the taxi he had been travelling in burst into flames.

The taxi had just been hit by a truck near Verena, Mpumalanga.

At the time, last month, Molepo had no idea that his two best friends – along with several other pupils – were trapped inside the burning vehicle.

Molepo, a Mahlenga Secondary School pupil, was one of seven survivors of the horrific taxi crash that claimed the lives of 20 people – 18 of whom were pupils. The taxi driver and a general worker also died in the incident.

The day of the accident, Friday afternoon, April 21, had started out as a seemingly normal day for Molepo.

"The day at school was running good, everything was perfect. It was just a normal day at school," said the soft-spoken Molepo.

Dramatic turn

He boarded a taxi with his two best friends and started chatting to them as the taxi drove down the R25 in Wolvenkop, near Verena.

"I was standing, chatting to my friends, two of them were just having a chat and the driver was driving nice."

From there, things took a dramatic turn when the taxi was hit by a truck, said Molepo, who said he blacked out after the initial impact from the crash.

"Then everything happened quickly. I found myself lying down, so I had to try and stand up but my left arm was broken, so I tried to balance, but I couldn’t, so I [pushed myself up] with my right arm [and] I managed to stand up," said Molepo, who didn’t recall seeing anyone else at the time. He could also not recall how he escaped from the taxi.

"Then I crossed the road next to a plastic bin and then I lay down and watched the taxi burn," he said.

"I didn’t notice how I got out. Everything happened fast."

'I felt very lonely'

He does remember, however, that there were other survivors who were also lying not very far from the wreckage.

Molepo said one minute he was talking to his friends in the taxi, the next he felt the impact, and his entire world changed.

While watching the wreckage burn, Molepo had no idea that his two best friends had died in the accident. It was only once he was in hospital that his mother broke the news to him.

"I was sad, but I had to accept that my two best friends passed away," said an emotional Molepo.

"I felt very lonely because I will go to school soon and I will not have friends, because no other friends can replace the ones that died in the accident. They were my best friends."

Big dreams

Molepo, who said the government had been very helpful through the ordeal, was still receiving counselling and said he was taking it day by day, moment by moment, and minute by minute.

He doesn’t understand why he survived the accident, while his best friends didn't but he said he believed it must mean that God had a purpose for him.

Molepo said he would honour his friends by focusing on school.

"I’m going to study hard, like I am studying for them. Everything I do, I do for them."

Molepo dreams of becoming a doctor someday.

A mass funeral was held on Saturday for 17 people.

The general worker and 16 pupils were buried in Verena, while two other pupils were buried in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo on Sunday.

Read more on:    mpumalanga  |  johannesburg  |  crashes  |  accidents

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