uShaka trip goes bad

2014-03-03 00:00

A GRADE 9 pupil who was injured in a bus crash that killed two of her fellow pupils yesterday spoke about the terrifying seconds before the vehicle overturned.

Slindile Makhathini (15) from Pietermaritzburg, a pupil at Albini High School, was one of 72 pupils on the bus.

Namsile Kolisang, a Grade 11 pupil and Zanele Mkhize (17) died and 70 girls were injured when their bus overturned at Shongweni on Saturday.

The bus was one of four that was transporting the children on a trip to uShaka Marine World.

Two teachers and the bus driver, Josiah Xaba, who is alleged to have been speeding, were also injured.

Xaba was charged with reckless and negligent driving and culpable homicide. Slindile was taken to Hillcrest Private Hospital with head, neck and leg injuries. She said the bus driver had decided to take a shorter route to catch up with the other three buses.

“I was sitting in the second row behind one of my teachers when this happened. The bus was moving at a high speed down a steep incline and we were horrified. I could see that the driver was panicking. There was commotion in the bus and some pupils were screaming.

“The next thing I saw was a tree on the road side, which the bus missed. It missed a second tree and then a huge branch from a third tree hit the wind-screen of the bus.”

Slindile said the last thing she remembered was being hit on the head before everything went blank.

She said the bus was old and the teacher in their company had passed a remark about its condition.

Her father, Bruce, said the family will wait for their daughter’s recovery and then consult with the family lawyer. “Whoever is responsible for this must pay for the pain and trauma my child went through. I’m told that the bus was organised on the day of the trip. Was it inspected for roadworthiness? Was the driver fit to drive at that stage? These are the things that should have been taken care of in advance,” said Bruce.

The school’s principal, Musawenkosi Malinga, said there were 72 pupils in the bus accompanied by two staff members. “A teacher was admitted and discharged the same day while the rest of the pupils were treated and sent home. We have one pupil here at Hillcrest and the other two are at R.K. Khan Hospital.”

A spokesperson for the bus company, Soobhugs Coaches, which is based in Pieter­maritzburg, said: “We are investigating the cause of the accident and what transpired between the driver and the clients. We would like to assure the public that our buses are in a good and roadworthy condition.”

Yesterday, for Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni led a delegation from her department on a visit to the three pupils hospitalised in Hillcrest and RK Khan hospitals. Nkonyeni listened to the pupils and assured them that the department will do its best to ensure that they are not left behind in their studies.

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