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MERVYN NAIDOO,AYANDA MHLANGA and AMANDA KHOZA
Durban - Namsile Kolisang was really excited about seeing her favourite sea creatures at uShaka Marine World, a place she had never been to before.
It was also the Grade 11 pupil’s first school trip – and her last. She died without seeing her favourite sea creatures or making the trip to Durban when the bus she and about 80 of her schoolmates were travelling in overturned on the winding stretch of Shongweni Main Road on Saturday morning.
Her father, Jerry Kolisang, who rushed to the scene, was overwhelmed with grief.
“I never thought when I paid the R100 fee for this trip I was paying for Namsile’s trip to heaven,” said Kolisang, who couldn’t understand what went wrong.
He said Namsile had never been on an excursion before. He previously refused all her pleas to go on school outings because he feared something might happen to her.
“I have cried and cried. Now it is time to prepare for my daughter’s funeral,” he said.
His daughter and another pupil, Zanele Mkhize, 17, died, and 77 other girls on the bus, all from Albini High School in Shongweni, were injured. Some were treated and sent home, while others are in a critical condition at hospitals around the province.
The driver of the bus, Josiah Xaba, is alleged to have been speeding. According to a well-placed source, Xaba was treated at King Edward Hospital and discharged.
It is alleged that he was trying to catch up with the three other buses that were also transporting pupils from Albini High to Durban.
Xaba was charged with reckless and negligent driving and culpable homicide. Police would not say whether he was tested for alcohol.
Minesh Jayram, the director of Soobhugs Bus Services, that owned the bus, said Xaba had used an alternate route to that used by the other buses, and the bus that overturned was roadworthy.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said a case of culpable homicide and reckless and negligent driving was being investigated.
Another pupil Nokwando Mpampo said she was sitting at the front of the bus.
She was looking forward to the excursion, a day trip to uShaka Marine World.
At 8.45am on Saturday, three buses taking pupils from Albini High School had already left for Durban. She says their bus driver, Josiah Xaba, drove fast in an attempt to catch up with them.
“I was in the front, so I could see how fast he was going. It was a winding road, and the children kept telling him to slow down, but he wouldn’t listen. Then I heard screaming and woke up in hospital.”
Mpampo was treated at RK Khan Hospital for neck and arm injuries.
She had no idea that two of her friends had died when their bus overturned.
All Mile Sosibo, 15, a Grade 10 pupil who sat at the back of the bus, remembers is travelling at speed.
“I don’t know what happened after that. My parents visited me in hospital, and I am waiting to go home now,” said Sosibo.
But she might be there a while, as her head injuries were severe.
Why the bus overturned and whether it was overloaded are being probed, said Department of Transport spokesman Kwanale Ncalane.
“It is regrettable that yet another school bus was involved in a tragic incident. A team of investigators have combed the crash site for clues as to the cause.”
Sipho Khoza, a teacher, who drove behind the bus, said: “The other buses drove on the freeway. This one took a detour because it was late. We were following at a distance of about 200m when it suddenly disappeared.”
When they next saw the bus it was on its side, said Khoza.
They helped to pull pupils through the windows. And the paramedics who arrived at the scene battled to cope with the many injured.
Garrith Jamieson, spokesman for Rescue Care, said there was chaos because of a lack of ambulances.
“They needed 40 to 50.”
Department of Education spokesman Muzi Mahlambi expressed condolences and hoped the injured would recover well.
The department would counsel those not injured, said Mahlambi.
“The Transport Department will investigate. On Monday, we will get a report from the school on the following of procedures. We need to know if there was any negligence,” said Mahlambi.
A memorial service will be held at the school on Thursday for the two pupils who died.
Mbukeni Mkhize, the grandfather of Grade 11 pupil Zanele Mkhize, 17, said he was battling to come to terms with her death.
“Zanele was a very bright girl,” he said. “She wanted to be a doctor. I can’t believe this has happened.”
Minesh Jayram, a director of Soobhugs Bus Service, which provided the transport, said the buses were in good condition.