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Johannesburg - They were just a few kilometres from their school when they were killed.
Hours later, a sponsor would pledge to fund their school fees so they could continue to receive an education that their family could not afford, unaware that the two girls had been killed in a horrific crash.
Cousins Celiwe and Lerato Msimango died in a pile-up in the south of Joburg on Tuesday afternoon when a truck ploughed into the car they were in, as well as three other vehicles, about 3.5km from their school.
They were being driven home by their grandmother, who also died in the crash.
Meanwhile, the driver of the truck has been arrested and charged with five counts of culpable homicide and reckless driving, according to Joburg metro police department (JMPD) spokesman Wayne Minnaar.
The cousins, as well as a third girl, had been in Grade 8 at Covenant College since the beginning of the year with the help of a sponsor. The sponsorship was organised by their former teacher as their families could not afford the school fees. But their place there had been cast in doubt after the funding was recently withdrawn.
A teacher from the girls’ school had managed to find another sponsor to keep the girls at their current school by appealing to listeners of a Talk Radio 702 show on Tuesday night.
She was unaware that the girls had been killed at that point and was informed of the crash only at 1am on Wednesday.
“At last, when we think there is light at the end of the tunnel (for them), and now this happens,” said their former headmaster at Spectrum Primary School, Sam Nenngwekhulu.
He said the girls were from a “really remote area that is poverty stricken”, near Ennerdale.
The crash happened in Kibler Park, at the corner of Main and Peggy Vera roads, when an 18-wheeler truck ploughed into four cars.
“The truck caught fire and then all the vehicles caught fire,” said Joburg Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi.
Five people were “burnt beyond recognition” in the accident while another seven, including the driver of the truck, were taken to various hospitals across Gauteng for treatment.
Mulaudzi and Minnaar both described the scene as horrific.
“They wanted something more than their families could provide them with,” said the headmistress of Covenant College, Gené Riley.
She added that the school had contact details only for the grandmother.
“The Grade 8 class are devastated and the teachers are trying to cope,” said Riley, who described the cousins as soft-spoken.
The former teacher, who had secured Celiwe and Lerato’s sponsorship, said she was now being blamed for the deaths because she had organised for the girls to attend the school.
“Accidents are beyond our control. If my intention was otherwise, I would not have gone the extra mile,” she said.
“Basically, now I’m the most wicked person in this community,” said the teacher, who did not want to be named for fear of further persecution.