Durban - The family of a Chatsworth woman who died on a Pretoria-bound Intercape bus on Thursday are outraged that it did not deviate from its route to seek help when she began feeling unbearable chest pains.
They are also aghast that Sally Pillay’s body was left on the floor of the un-air-conditioned vehicle, for almost five hours.
Some passengers allegedly had to climb over the seats to use the toilet, because they did not want to step over the body.
The 62-year-old died five hours into what was supposed to have been an eight-hour trip from Durban.
The double-decker bus was allegedly not equipped with a first-aid kit, and Pillay’s relatives – who were travelling with her – performed CPR, to no avail.
A fellow passenger declared her dead.
The bus eventually stopped at Wilge Toll Plaza in the Free State, but passengers were allegedly instructed not to disembark, said one passenger.
Paramedics arrived after a while and formally declared Pillay dead. By the time a mortuary van arrived, Pillay’s relatives had already driven there from Johannesburg after they were contacted.
“The way everything happened was shocking. Intercape staff showed no sympathy, it was only the passengers who helped us,” said Pillay’s niece, Sheryl Govender, who was also on the bus.
“Dying on the floor, and for her body to lie like that for so long, is not a good way for anyone to go. If they (Intercape staff) paid attention to us from the beginning, maybe something could have been done.
“There was no first-aid kit on board and they would not deviate from the route for us to find help.”
The Daily News contacted Intercape and was directed to the company’s legal representative who replied: “Our comment is as follows: ‘no comment’. Thank you for your enquiry.”
Govender said she and her aunt were going to Johannesburg for a prayer service tomorrow, for her recently deceased brother.
The bus had left Durban at 10pm on Wednesday. It had just got back on to the road after a halfway rest stop when Pillay’s alarm clock went off at 3.30am.
“She was fine, awake and talking. She was sitting across the aisle next to another passenger, while her sister and I were sitting together,” she said.
A few minutes later, Pillay started complaining of a “heavy” chest and feeling extremely hot. Because the air conditioner was off, Govender said they started fanning Pillay, who suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes.
It got so unbearable that Pillay stood up to try to relieve the pain in her chest, she said.
“She was not stable and we were scared she was going to fall but she said the pain was too much, she had to stand.”
Realising the seriousness of the situation, Govender went down to the lower section of the bus to ask the host for help.
“I couldn’t find him and I did not want to disturb the driver,” she said.
However, when she went back and found her aunt making loud noises, because her breathing had become more difficult, she said she had no choice but to go back and interrupt the driver.
Fellow passenger Londi Masondo of Clermont, who was sitting two seats behind Pillay, said she was awoken by Govender’s cries for help.
“With other passengers, we carried her (Pillay) out of her seat and laid her on the floor. Her family started performing CPR on her. I felt for a pulse on her wrists and neck and there was none. When I told them she was dead they cried and kept pumping her chest, they just could not believe she was gone,” Masondo said.
The host finally came and said he would call an ambulance and the bus eventually stopped at Wilge Toll Plaza.
By then it was 8am and passengers were forbidden from getting off, said Masondo, explaining that they had to stay in the stuffy bus with no air conditioning for hours.
Out of respect for her aunt whose body was blocking the passage, most passengers climbed over the seats to get to the toilet, Govender said.
She said she would be returning to Durban for her aunt’s funeral on Sunday.
Free State police spokeswoman, Lieutenant-Colonel Annelie Wrensch, said an inquest opened earlier by Villiers police had since been closed, after it was determined that Pillay had died of natural causes.