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KwaZulu-Natal - The driver of a bus in which seven pupils died after it crashed is facing charges of culpable homicide, which could be changed to charges of murder, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport said yesterday.
“When the matter goes to court, the National Prosecuting Authority will look at how strong the case is and the circumstances that led to the accident to determine if the charges should change to murder or remain as is,” said department spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane.
He said police and the Road Management Traffic Co-operation had yet to establish the cause of Friday’s accident in the Umzinyathi area, Inanda, that claimed the lives of youngsters between the ages of 14 and 17.
Education MEC Senzo Mchunu and his department head, Nkosinathi Sishi, as well as Human Settlements and Public Works MEC Ravi Pillay, and other government officials yesterday visited some of the 54 injured passengers who were taken to several hospitals, including King Edward VIII in Durban.
Ncalane said the probe of the crash would entail checking whether the bus was roadworthy, inspecting other buses in the operator’s fleet, and contacting survivors.
“If the accident was avoidable, the owner and the driver would be held responsible,” said Ncalane.
Yesterday, one of the crash survivors, Zama Mthethwa, a Grade 8 pupil at Emalangeni Secondary School in Umzinto on the South Coast, spoke of the horrific experience.
“There were excruciating screams and cries before the bus came to a standstill and rested on its side,” she said from her hospital bed.
About 64 people, most of them pupils and teachers, were on the bus on their way to Ngoza Secondary School in Ndwedwe to play netball and soccer.
Zama told of how she covered her face with her school jersey when the bus tilted while the driver tried to negotiated a bend just moments before the crash.
“Pupils cried and screamed. I just covered my face [and] crouched by the seat,” she said as she wiped away tears.
“I was aware of what was happening, but I didn’t want to see death… I thought I was going to die.”
The bus plunged 150m down an embankment, killing four pupils instantly. Three more succumbed to their injuries later.
Only a few escaped with minor injuries.
While most of the injured were discharged at the weekend, about 23 pupils were still in hospital, three in a critical condition. The rest are regarded as stable.
One pupil, who suffered a skull fracture and injuries to the spine, was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, while another had a leg amputated at Addington Hospital.
The bus driver was discharged from Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre yesterday.
Sishi said he suspected mechanical and brake failure was the cause of the accident.
“It is not natural to see pupils and teachers in hospital, because they belong in a classroom … it is very sad,” he said. Of those who died, Sishi said: “These were kids with bright futures and because of poor bus conditions, they lost their lives.”
Two weeks ago, 10 pupils and a driver died in a horror bakkie accident on the R617 between Bulwer and Underberg.
Twenty-five pupils, between the ages of eight and 13, from Donnybrook Primary and Blessed Luanda Primary, were in a single cab bakkie that rolled numerous times while transporting them home after school.
It is believed the driver lost control and overturned when attempting to overtake on a sharp bend. - Daily News