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‘Lydia isn’t here anymore and I have to be okay’

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 with officials from the Sedibeng District Municipality yesterday to discuss funeral arrangements for the 19 people killed in the crash.

Grieving: Thomas Nkhata's wife, Lydia, was killed in the Putco bus accident on Monday. Nkhata and families of the victims met with Putco and Road Accident Fund officials at the Saul Tsotetsi Sports Complex in Sebokeng yesterday to discuss funeral arrangements.Picture: Sharon Seretlo. Credit: INLSA

The Putco bus was carrying 74 passengers and travelling from Sebokeng towards Meyerton on the R59 when it crashed against the barrier line of a bridge.

Lydia was killed in the crash. She was 47.

The 55 other passengers were injured, some of them seriously.

It has been alleged that the bus had been driving at high speed.

Nkhata, 43, was early for the meeting. He nervously sat outside the hall watching over a plastic bag that contained food for his four-year-old daughter. The crash left Nkhata not only a widower but also a single father.

“She has been asking where her mother is… she doesn’t understand. She just wants her mother,” he said, rubbing his face with his hands.

Nkhata met Lydia in 2001. She was everything he wanted in a wife.

“I met her and knew this is the woman I want to have a family with,” he said.

Nkhata and his wife worked for the same family, he as a gardener and she as a domestic.

“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 anymore and I have to be okay even if I’m not. For my daughter I have to be okay.”

The meeting was closed to the media.

Dan Manoeli, acting director of external communications for the district, said they had met with the families to discuss next week’s the funeral arrangements.

“We are giving families the option of having a mass funeral or they can have their own services.”

Putco had addressed the families and offered R10 000 for each deceased person and two buses for each family living in Gauteng.

“If a family wants to have a private funeral outside Gauteng, Putco is offering R10 000 and one bus,” Manoeli said.

The Road Accident Fund also offered R9 600 towards the coffin costs and preparation of the bodies for the funeral.

A mass memorial service will be held for the victims of the crash from 11am to 1pm at the Mphatlalatsane Sports Complex in Sebokeng on Wednesday next week. The funeral is on Saturday.

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