/ 24 August 2011

Fifteen children, driver killed in Knysna bus crash

Sixteen people died — 15 of them children — and 42 were injured when a school bus plunged off a bridge and into a dam in Knysna on Wednesday morning.

The death toll was not expected to rise, said emergency services spokesperson Kerry Davids.

“Sixteen bodies have been recovered, 15 children and the bus driver,” said Captain Malcolm Pojie.

“Forty-two children have been taken to hospital and are being treated for minor injuries and shock,” he said.

The children were pupils at the Rheenendal primary school and were on their way to school at the time of the crash, said Pojie.

“We are not sure how many children were on the bus. We are retrieving it from the water and divers will continue to search for more bodies,” he said.

“The bus plunged off a lower bridge into a river that appears to have flooded during the night [after] heavy rainfall.”

Davids said all the children were between the ages of seven and 14.

She said the 42 injured were taken to hospital with back and neck pain, and mild hypothermia.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was shocked at the deaths.

“The department of basic education would like to send sincere condolences to the families of the learners, and indeed the entire schooling community,” she said on Wednesday.

Social workers and psychologists were on the scene counselling parents, school staff and children.

Earlier, ER24 spokesperson Andre Visser said the driver lost control of the bus and it rolled into the dam.

“The only part of the bus sticking out of the water is the rear.”

Police divers, paramedics and emergency services were on the scene.

The Western Cape’s provincial minister for transport, Robin Carlisle, said he was on his way to Knysna.

“We will be there to find out the facts, to assist wherever we can, and to ensure that if there has been any negligence or irresponsibility, that those found guilty will be savagely punished.

“This is an unspeakable tragedy and a bitter blow coming one day from the anniversary tomorrow of the Blackheath taxi crash that killed 10 children last year,” he said.

The children died when their minibus taxi was hit by a train after jumping a line of stopped cars at a level crossing at Blackheath in Cape Town.

Carlisle said he was being accompanied by the province’s education minister Donald Grant; community safety minister Dan Plato, and finance minister Allan Winde. — Sapa