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Shoulders slumped under an oversized jacket, Thomas Nkhata clutched a ragged black file carrying the few official documents he had left of his wife Lydia.
His eyes wandered around the Saul Tsotetsi Sports Complex in Sebokeng where he and the other families of victims of the Meyerton bus crash were about to meet officials from the Sedibeng District Municipality on Thursday to discuss funeral arrangements for the 19 people killed in the crash.
The Putco bus was carrying 74 passengers and travelling from Sebokeng towards Meyerton on the R59 when it crashed into the barrier line of a bridge.
Nkhata’s wife Lydia was killed. She was 47.
Fifty-five other passengers were injured, some of them seriously. Passengers claimed the bus driver had been speeding.
Nkhata, 43, arrived early for the meeting. For the 30 minutes he had before it started, he nervously sat outside the hall watching over a plastic bag that contained food for his four-year-old daughter.
Nkhata is now a widower and single father.
“She has been asking where her mother is… She doesn’t understand,” he said about his daughter as he rubbed his face with his hands.
Nkhata met Lydia in 2001. To him, she was everything he had wanted in a wife. “I met her and knew, this is the woman I want to have a family with,” he said, a smile forming momentarily.
Nkhata and his wife worked for the same family, he as a gardener and she as a domestic worker.
“Lydia was a good woman,” he said, as he stood to walk inside the hall for the meeting with the rest of the families, “but she’s not here any more and I have to be okay, even if I’m not. For my daughter.”
The meeting was closed to the media, but Dan Manoeli, acting director of external communications for the Sedibeng District Municipality, said after the meeting that they had gathered to meet the families to discuss funeral arrangements for next week.
“We are giving families the option of having a mass funeral or they can have their own services. Putco also came to address the families and has offered R10 000 per deceased person and two buses (for transport) for each family who lives in Gauteng. If a family wants to have a private funeral outside Gauteng, Putco is offering R10 000 and one bus.”
The Road Accident Fund offered R9 600 to assist with costs.
A memorial service will be held at the Mphatlalatsane Sports Complex in Sebokeng from 11am to 1pm on Wednesday next week, and the funeral will be next Sunday.