May 27, 1985, and May 1, 2003, live on in many people’s memories as tragic reminders of what can happen when an emergency exit fails to work.
Forty-two children from the Vorentoe High School lost their lives in May 1985 when the bus in which they were travelling plunged into the Westdene Dam in Johannesburg.
In 2003, 51 Sol Plaatje municipal workers on their way to a Workers’ Day rally died in the Saulspoort Dam disaster when the driver of the bus apparently took a wrong turn-off in Bethlehem and ended up on a road that led him into a dam.
Judge Hans Rampai found in the Bloemfontein High Court in February 2004 that the Saulspoort victims probably tried without success to open the bus’s emergency exit.
Marcelle Wilsnach, now 41 and one of the lucky survivors of the Westdene bus disaster, last year relived the accident in the hope her chilling testimony could aid in resolving faulty emergency exits.