'My heart is broken': Five pupils killed as truck smashes through Potchefstroom primary school fence

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The truck was traveling from Potchefstroom in the direction of Johannesburg on the N12 when it reportedly had a tyre burst, and the driver lost control.
The truck was traveling from Potchefstroom in the direction of Johannesburg on the N12 when it reportedly had a tyre burst, and the driver lost control.
Iavan Pijoos

WARNING: This article contains graphic details, which may upset sensitive readers.

  • Five pupils from Vyfhoek Primary School in Potchefstroom were killed when a truck plunged through the school fence on Thursday afternoon.
  • The North West Department of Education said four others were admitted to hospital. 
  • Provincial police said no arrests had been made, but a case of culpable homicide was under investigation. 

Three pupils from Vyfhoek Primary School lay motionless, trapped underneath a small truck in the parking bay of the school premises on Thursday afternoon.

They had just been run over by the truck which lost control and plunged through the fence of the school on the busy N12 highway, about 7km outside Potchefstroom.

By the time school principal Corrie Smit reached for them underneath the truck, it was too late.  

"I got under the truck and tried to see if I could feel a pulse and check if anyone was still alive so that we could help them, but they were gone already," Smit told News24 as the tears rolled down his cheeks.

The bodies of two other children, who still had their school bags on their backs, were found nearby.

The pain in Smith’s eyes was evident as he explained what happened.

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"The school had just ended, and the children were waiting outside for their transport. The staff members were also outside waiting with them. About 40 pupils were waiting outside and the others had already left with their transport," he said.

"A staff member came rushing into my office and told me there was an accident, and I immediately ran outside. I called the emergency services when I saw what had happened.

"Luckily, the staff saw that the truck was traveling at speed in the direction of the school, and they tried to warn the children to move out of the way, but unfortunately, not everyone was able to get to safety.

"When I saw the children laying around, I asked the staff to fetch blankets to close them.

"The fire department also came to clean the area because there was a lot of blood. My heart is broken."

READ | Boy, 16, arrested after losing control of car, hitting pedestrian

According to North West Department of Education spokesperson Elias Malindi, five pupils died on the scene, while four others were taken to hospital in critical conditions.

Smit said some of the teachers had accompanied the injured pupils to hospital.

He said social workers had been dispatched to the school shortly after the accident to brief parent.

"We couldn’t identify the three pupils trapped underneath the truck at that stage," she said.

Workers fixing the fence at Vyfhoek Primary School
Workers fixing the fence at Vyfhoek Primary School in Potchefstroom.
News24 Iavan Pijoos

Malindi said the truck had been traveling from Potchefstroom to Johannesburg on the N12 when a tyre reportedly burst and the driver lost control.

The children were between the ages of 7 and 11. 

Smit thanked members of the local community, who came in numbers to offer assistance.  

"We genuinely have received tremendous support and help from the community. Everyone wants to help; we are incredibly grateful for that." 

North West police spokesperson Captain Aafje Botma said no arrests had been made, but that a case of culpable homicide was under investigation.

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