The driver of this car died after it went off a bridge into a river at Umzimkulu, south of Ixopo, yesterday. Picture: EMRS

Durban - A man died when his car went off a bridge and plunged into a river in Umzimkulu, south of Ixopo, on Tuesday, despite a desperate effort by paramedics who scrambled to the river to save him.

Robert McKenzie from Emergency Medical Rescue Service (EMRS) said the car was half submerged, and they realised they were the driver’s only hope of survival.

Rescue workers retrieved the driver from the wreck and treated him on the river bank.

An advanced life-support paramedic also tried to resuscitate the man to no avail.

* In a separate accident, also on the R56 near Ixopo, 68 people, many of them children, were hurt when their bus crashed on a side road just after 7am.

McKenzie said they were “shocked” when they found the bus had been carrying schoolchildren.

“The majority of the patients sustained only minor injuries,” he said.

“There were fortunately no fatalities or critically injured patients.”

The paramedics counted 68 injured. Five were seriously hurt, but their conditions were not life-threatening.

The patients were taken to Christ the King hospital in Ixopo.

The police said the cause of the crash was unclear.

The Department of Transport has expressed concern at a recent increase in the number of road accidents involving schoolchildren.

The department’s spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, said while he was aware of the accident, he did not have details.

He warned those transporting children to and from schools not to overload vehicles and to ensure they were in a roadworthy condition.

Ncalane said the department would be working with the Department of Education to increase safe government-subsidised transport for schoolchildren.

Those children involved in Tuesday’s crash received conselling after the accident, the Department of Education spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said on Tuesday.

Last week, seven Pietermaritzburg pupils, between 3 and 12, were treated for minor injuries after the bakkie they were travelling in hit a car in Edendale Road, Esigodini.

The children were on their way to school when the bakkie’s brakes reportedly failed.

The Mercury