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01 Jan 2002 00:00
Nine tourists were killed and ten others seriously injured when their luxury tour bus left the road between Piet Retief and Pongola in Mpumalanga on Wednesday, police confirmed.
The bus operator, Springbok Atlas, said in a statement on Wednesday evening that of the ten injured passengers, three were in a critical condition with head, spinal and leg injuries respectively. Four of the dead tourists were British, and another six Brits were injured.
Three Canadians died and another three sustained injuries.
Dr Andrew Shija, superintendent of the Piet Retief hospital, where the injured were initially taken, said the bus driver and the tour guide were also seriously injured. Police said the driver suffered serious head injuries while the tour guide’s head injuries were less severe.
Captain Sibongile Nkosi said the bus crashed around 12.30pm near the Assegai bridge about 20 kilometres from Piet Retief. “We are unsure of the cause of the accident but wet conditions were prevailing,” she said.
The coach was on the third day of a routine trip between Durban, the Kruger Park and Johannesburg, a Springbok Atlas representative said. Another Springbok Atlas bus was involved in a similar accident in October 1999 when 27 British tourists died after the bus plunged down Mpumalanga’s Long Tom Pass after its brakes failed and the driver lost control.
The bus was carrying 36 tourists and rolled three times before coming to a standstill. Bus driver Titus Dube and nine tourists were seriously injured.
Springbok Atlas on Wednesday said it was liaising with the international travel agencies through which the tourists had booked their trips and the names of the dead passengers would only be released once their relatives had been contacted.
Springbok Atlas MD Paddy Vella expressed his deepest sympathies to the relatives and friends of those who were killed and injured. “This is a shocking tragedy. We will ensure that injured passengers are given the best medical care available.”
British Airways Holidays, a tour operator, said four of the people on the bus were travelling on one of the company’s tailor-made holidays.
A representative said they had flown from London to Cape Town and were about halfway through a 13-day trip, the Press Association in London reported.
“We are flying people out to assist and also our ground agents in South Africa are helping. We are keeping in contact with the families involved.”
Springbok Atlas is also making contact with the families of the foreign tourists who were killed or injured via the travel agencies that booked the tours. - Sapa
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