School taxi accident: ‘These children were too young to have died the way they did’

Irene Simelane heard on the news about the horrific crash that took the lives of 18 children and two adults in Mpumalanga on Friday.

She was worried about her six-year-old grandniece, Buhle Masuku. The girl took a taxi to school every day from Verena, Mpumalanga, to Refano Primary School in Gauteng. Simelane spoke to The Daily Vox about the moment her fears were confirmed.

When you see something happening to other families on TV, the pain isn’t there because you are removed from it. But when it happens to you … I don’t know how I feel.

In my mind I had that question: Where is Buhle? But it turned out that Buhle was in that accident.

My brother-in-law, her father, and Buhle’s aunt went to the school. That’s where they found out that Buhle was one of the children that died.

I was at home in Witbank. They called us and asked if we saw the accident on TV. I said yes and they said that was the Kombi Buhle uses.

Maybe if there was a bus that took the children, the accident could’ve been avoided. A bus driver knows that they are being paid by the government. A taxi driver is rushing to wherever they’re going because they’re rushing to make more pick ups. He wasn’t concentrating on the road.

What I’ll remember about Buhle is iChappies – Buhle loved Chappies. She was happy and jolly. She knew what she wanted from school; she knew that she went to school to get an education. She loved going to church and she was a very respectful child. We didn’t live with her but when she visited us, we would wish that she didn’t have to go home. She was a child that you would wish to live with. Image of Buhle Masuku courtesy of Mancoba Masuku

They counted 19 children. When you think about how they died so painfully, in my ears I can hear the sound of the children screaming. These children didn’t die peacefully. They died screaming and in pain. They were crying out for their mothers. It’s painful being burnt by steam from a kettle but what about fire? These children were too young to have died the way they did.

It’s painful to us, so painful. I feel that pain and it’s a wound that will never heal.

As told to Nolwandle Zondi, edited for clarity and brevity. — The Daily Vox

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