Three schoolchildren killed as unroadworthy bakkie crashes

2009-05-22 00:00

THREE pupils aged between six and 13 were killed in a horrific accident when an unroadworthy bakkie crashed on the R74 Muden road near Greytown yesterday.

Anele Jess Ireland (6), described as a “bubbly child”, and high achievers Cebolenkosi Sithole (10) and Thembeka Mkhize (12) died. Nine other children were taken to Greytown Hospital.

The driver allegedly tried to overtake another vehicle, but lost control, hit a telephone pole and overturned. Two children died on scene: one was trapped ; the second was found beneath the bakkie. The third died on the way to hospital.

KZN Transport Department spokeswoman Zinhle Mngomezulu said the bakkie was carrying 17 pupils from schools in Greytown, including Greytown Secondary, St Davids, Tholinhlanhla and Buhlebuyeza High.

She said the bakkie had been suspended from use. The driver was in contravention of the Road Traffic Act and has been charged with three counts of culpable homicide.

Mngomezulu said the accident was not the first involving a bakkie carrying pupils in the area. “There is no other means of transport in the area,” she added.

The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Bheki Cele, said transporting school children in bakkies for reward is illegal. He urged parents, schools and public transport operators to work with the government to address the challenge.

“The law is clear and we need to abide by the law and enforce the law to make sure that people just do right,” Cele said.

The accident happened at about 7.15 am at the Lake Merthley turn- off, within walking distance from one of the schools.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu rushed to the scene. He said the accident could have been avoided if the driver had adhered to rules of the road. “Bakkies are not designed to carry passengers as means of public transportation, and to think that 17 children were crammed in the back of a bakkie is disturbing and shocking to say the least.”

He said an awareness campaign would target at parents, schools and other stakeholders in a bid to work out options that would not put the lives of children at risk.

In another accident, six teachers and a security guard from Mabedlana Primary School were injured yesterday morning and taken to hospital in Msinga.

‘School traumatised’ — Page 3

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