Horror start to Easter weekend: Tragic bus accident sees 45 dead

The Limpopo bus tragedy which claimed the lives of 45 people leaving an eight-year-old child as the sole survivor. l FACEBOOK

The Limpopo bus tragedy which claimed the lives of 45 people leaving an eight-year-old child as the sole survivor. l FACEBOOK

Published Mar 30, 2024


[Update: This story was updated for clarity. Carmen Mohapi’s comment’s were amended to accurate reflect her response]

Cape Town – The Easter weekend began on a horrific and sad note following the death of 45 churchgoers in Limpopo after their bus fell off a bridge, leaving an 8-year-old child as the sole survivor.

Former president Jacob Zuma also escaped death in a car accident involving his convoy in Kwazulu-Natal.

Zuma and his convoy survived the crash on Thursday night between Gingindlovu and Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma had been travelling from Nkandla to Eshowe to campaign for his uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party.

Former president Jacobs Zuma and his convoy survived a road crash which took place on Thursday night between Gingindlovu and Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal.

The bus accident, which also took place on Thursday, had been transporting congregants of the Zion Christian Church from Botswana.

The driver apparently lost control and the vehicle fell off a bridge and caught fire on a mountainside between Mokopane and Marken in Limpopo.

National Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga extended her condolences to the families affected and urge motorists to drive responsibly and with heightened alertness “as more people are on our roads this Easter weekend”.

The accident comes a month before the one-year anniversary of the St Aidan’s, St Saviour’s and St Matthew’s Church bus accident on April 28, 2023 on the N2 near Swellendam, claiming the lives of five people, with 48 injured.

Western Cape Emergency Medical Services (EMS) communications officer Megan Davids appealed to pedestrians, motorists and ordinary citizens to help reduce the carnage both at home and on the streets.

She said in doing so, EMS reflected on the 2023 numbers for the Easter weekend, between April 6 and April 11, in which the province recorded a total of 9 149 incidents.

She added that as this Easter weekend period drew ever closer, 2 778 incidents had already been recorded in rural areas, and 2 024 in metro areas.

“Last year, the metro areas reported 4 146 incidents, while the rural areas accounted for 5 003 incidents,” she added.

“A significant portion of these incidents were transport-related, with pedestrians, light motor vehicle accidents, motorcyclists and cyclists among the most affected groups.

“Additionally, 511 of the incidents were trauma-related and attributed to physical assault.

“Reflecting on these numbers, with last weekend’s figures highlighting the similar incident count of 2 778 incidents in rural and 2 024 in metro, with 260 physical assault incidences, EMS implores all road users and travellers to prioritise safety above all else as the long weekend approaches.”

Weekend Argus also approached Intercape bus services and the South African National Taxi Council’s Ryno Saaiers on predictions and numbers for long-distance travel.

Saaiers said predictions were not clear at this stage.

“The Easter period is, however, never as busy as the December period due to the length of the holiday.”

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said the City kicked off their Operation Exodus in which they appealed to long-distance public transport operators to get their vehicles checked before hitting the road.

Examiners conducted vehicle safety checks on 327 buses, midi-buses, minibuses and trailers in the first six days of the operation, which began last week.

Since the launch on 21 March, the checkpoints have seen 884 vehicles stopped, 864 drivers screened and 4 038 fines issued for various transgressions.

According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation’s statistics, there were 26 fatal crashes on the Western Cape’s roads in the Easter 2023 period, with 27 fatalities.

Table Mountain National Park also deployed the Airbus H125 aircraft to support the Sea, Air and Mountain Special Operations Ranger team and ranger corps during the Easter weekend.

In Clifton, a drowning incident was also reported on Friday.

Although there are no statistics available for child deaths over the Easter period specifically, the World Health Organisation in their Global status report on road safety 2023 said traffic injuries remain the leading killer of children and young people aged 5-29 years.

Carmen Mohapi, the Managing Director of Aware.org said, the two key factors are that the roads get busy with additional holiday traffic and that some road users choose to get behind the wheel even when they are over the legal alcohol limit.

"We therefore appeal to drivers to drive responsibly.”

Simon Zwane, the RTMC’s chief communications officer, said intoxication played a major role in fatalities.

“Our research on driver intoxication and fatal crashes suggests that driver alcohol intoxication accounts for an estimated 5.5% of fatal crashes in South Africa.

“Additionally, pedestrians experience the greatest risk when alcohol is mixed with road use.”

The Western Cape Mobility Department said statistics would not be released during the weekend until Chikunga issued her report at the end of the Easter weekend period.