The Western Cape education department will investigate why a 32-seater bus was used to transport 58 school children involved in a horror crash in Knysna on Wednesday, MEC Donald Grant said.
Fourteen of the children were killed when the driver lost control of the bus on a low bridge and it plunged into a dam on the way to school. The bus driver was also killed. The remaining 44
children were injured.
“According to our records the vehicle approved for transport on this route is a bus that seats 67 learners,” Grant said in a statement.
“Sixty-five learners are registered on this route in our learner transport scheme. However, the bus involved in today's accident is a 32-seater bus, which is usually assigned to another bus route,” he said.
There were only limited circumstances where buses could be substituted, Grant said.
“The scene has been cleared and divers have stopped searching the water for bodies,” police spokesman Captain Malcolm Pojie said on Wednesday afternoon.
“An investigative team has a list of all the children, from the department, and has contacted parents.”
The children were pupils at the Rheenendal Primary School and aged between seven and 14.
The injured were taken to Knysna provincial hospital with back and neck pain, and mild hypothermia, emergency services spokeswoman Kerry Davids said.
The Federation of Unions of SA said it noted with “grave concern” that the accident was believed to have been caused by brake failure, general secretary Dennis George said.
Pojie was unable to confirm whether the brakes had indeed failed.
Only the rear of the bus was sticking out of the water, ER24 spokesman Andre Visser said shortly after the crash.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga sent her condolences to the children's families.
Social workers and psychologists were on the scene counselling parents, school staff and children.
At least 60 people have died in six accidents throughout the country this month, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said in a statement.
“We cannot go on like this. This horrific road crash in Knysna... is yet again an unnecessary loss of lives,” he said.
Ndebele said the Road Traffic Management Corporation had sent an accident investigation team and reconstruction specialists to help probe the crash.
“We want to convey condolences to the families and colleagues of those killed, and wish the injured a speedy recovery,” he said.
Western Cape transport MEC Robin Carlisle said the tragedy came the day before the anniversary of the Blackheath taxi crash in which 10 children were killed last year. Their minibus taxi was hit by a train after jumping a line of cars stopped at a level crossing at Blackheath, Cape Town.
Carlisle was accompanied to the scene of Wednesday's crash by Grant, community safety MEC Dan Plato, and finance MEC Allan Winde. -