Farmers, cops save kids from bus stuck in floodwaters

2017-02-22 10:02
The tractor in the floodwater in front of the bus. (Supplied to Netwerk24)

The tractor in the floodwater in front of the bus. (Supplied to Netwerk24)

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Bloemfontein - Farmers and the police struggled for hours on Tuesday afternoon to save a busload of schoolchildren after the vehicle got stuck in fast-flowing floodwaters on a low-water bridge. There were about 30 children on the bus. 

Neels Steyn said he and a neighbour, Geo Olivier, whose farm is near the Rietspruit on Greenlands Road between Parys and Heilbron, had responded to an SOS from another farmer, Francois Loggerenberg, Netwerk24 reported.

Loggerenberg had been first on the scene after a bus belonging to the Weiveld Agricultural and Hotel School in Parys became stuck on the bridge at about 14:30.

- Watch the video here

Steyn said the water pushed the bus up against a piece of cement, which prevented it from ending up in the fast-flowing water. Fortunately, the bus driver had immediately stopped. 

The Rietspruit was about a kilometre wide at the time and shortly after the bus became stuck, the water started flowing very strongly.  

Steyn initially tried using a small tractor to get to the bus but realised the water was too strong for it. 
He sent someone to fetch his biggest tractor, a John Deere 8260R.   

Geo Olivier drove the tractor up to the bus through the flooded spruit. 

1.5m deep 

A Parys police officer, Jan Olivier, brought two life jackets. He put one on and brought the children to the tractor one by one.

Steyn said only five children could be taken to safety at a time in the tractor's cabin.

Once they got to shallower water, other farmers took the children to dry ground.

Steyn said things could easily have gone horribly wrong. At one stage, the water was flowing so strongly that Jan Olivier was swept away. However, he managed to get to the side of the spruit and climb up the embankment.

The water was flowing 1.5m deep, said Steyn.

He said they had considered towing the bus with the children still in it, but because the water was flowing so strongly, the farmers felt they could not risk the possibility of the bus being swept away.

More people from Parys and other towns had come to help bring the children to safety late on Tuesday afternoon.

Steyn said it took a long time to get all the children safely to dry ground and tow the bus out of the water. He said he only got home at 20:00 on Tuesday night. 

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  weather  |  floods  |  good news  |  search and rescue

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