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Cape Town -
It ha been three days since a Khayelitsha family heard that a relative, Boniswa Kodwa, 34, was on the ill-fated bus that crashed on the Hex River Pass on Friday.
Twenty-four people died, including the driver.
On Monday, Kodwa’s partner, Fumanekile Mbondlololo, and cousin, Lindeka Zilindlovu, 33, were among the 22 families that travelled from Khayelitsha to Worcester to identify the bodies of their loved ones.
But Mbondlololo and Zilindlovu set off from the Site C sports and recreation centre on Monday with high hopes, believing Kodwa was alive and recovering at an unknown hospital.
Zilindlovu said there had been different stories about what had happened to her cousin: “Some people who were in the bus told us they left her on the floor, trapped between seats, and that she was still alive.”
At the morgue, Zilindlovu and Mbondlololo could not find her among the dead.
They were then told to look for her at Worcester Hospital. Their hopes spiralled when hospital staff found a person on their list who matched Kodwa’s description.
But when they went up to the ward they discovered it was not Kodwa.
After going through pictures of the dead and looking at the bodies again, they finally found her. Mbondlololo said most bodies were “badly damaged and it was almost impossible to identify them from their faces”.
Mbondlololo and Kodwa had two children together, aged 6 and 7.
“I was so relieved when I thought she was alive,” said Mbondlololo.
“What am I going to tell them (the children) now? They’ve been asking for her every day. They are so young and they need her… to bath and feed them.”
The families of the dead queued to take their turn at the Worcester Forensic Pathology Laboratory morgue.
The double-decker bus, owned by Atlantic City Liners, was carrying members of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ in Khayelitsha. The group, most of them women, were returning from a national prayer gathering in Secunda.
After identifying his wife - Babalwa Mbele, 31 - an emotional Lwazi Mbele, 37, said her face had been “smashed flat”.
“It was very difficult seeing her like that - hurt so bad. I checked for moles on her feet and back to make sure it was her,” he said.
At the morgue, a representative from the Road Accident Fund, Jacques Furter, told the families that the fund would assist with burial costs.
The church’s leader, Dumisani Ximbi, said the families had been counselled before and after the process. “We made sure they knew what to expect inside as the bodies were badly hurt,” Ximbi said.