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Call for probe into tourist bus crash

KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC S’bu Ndebele on Thursday called for an independent investigation into an accident on the Harrismith-Bergville road in which eight British tourists died.

Ndebele also sent his condolences to the families bereaved by the accident, which took place at 4pm on New Year’s Eve.

Of the investigation he said: ”I have asked for an independent investigation and representatives from the Road Traffic Inspectorate in Pietermaritzburg have been dispatched to the scene of the accident.”

The tour vehicle, Mercedes Benz Sprinter, would also be tested and interviews conducted to establish weather conditions at the time of the accident, and speed.

Ndebele was in contact with Britain’s Acting High Commissioner to South Africa, Andy Sparkes, who travelled to Ladysmith on Thursday to lend support to the two British survivors.

The other survivors were a Canadian, the South African minibus driver and a South African tour guide.

Ndebele said initial investigations had established that pedestrian Pelepele Miya was walking across the R74 between Bergville and Harrismith — which includes the windy and steep Oliviershoek Pass — when the tour bus crashed into him, overturned and left the road.

Six passengers died on the scene and two others died at the Ladysmith Provincial Hospital. Four others, including the driver and the guide, were in a stable condition.

Britain’s Press Association identified some of the victims as Roger and Linda Pearce, a married couple from Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire; Neil Pike and Christine Rowe, a couple from Preston, Lancashire; Anthony Egan from Surbiton, Surrey; and Thomas Harris from Cardiff, Wales.

The names of the other victims were being withheld pending notification of their families.

According to the National Road Traffic Act, the driver of a vehicle conveying passengers has to have a professional driving permit and be 21 years of age.

The tourists, some couples, some individuals, were travelling together as a group and came from different parts of the United Kingdom.

British High Commission spokesperson Nick Shepperd said the tourists were on their way to the Royal Natal National Park, in the Drakensberg, to camp.

He said individual arrangements would be made for the survivors to return home to the UK, and that some had relatives travelling out to South Africa to join them. – Sapa

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