The eight family members, including four children, died after the Toyota Corolla that they were travelling in was hit by a Toyota Land Cruiser from behind.
The incident happened at about 8.30pm on Friday night and the road was closed for several hours as rescue personnel worked tirelessly to free the deceased from the wreckage.
It was confirmed that 12 family members were inside the Corolla at the time of the accident.
Vanessa Phale, 27, and her husband Neo Phale, 28, along with their children, Jessica, 2, Tessa, 5, and Juvandre, 8, were travelling with Lettie Aries, 34, who is Vanessa’s sister, and her boyfriend Eric Barend, 37, their children, Petronella, 15, Kagisho, 9, and Barend’s daughter, Metjie, 16, Barend’s nephew, Solvano Kaatz, 12, and Aries’ nephew, Calvin van Wyk, 8.
Neo Phale, who was the driver, and his daughter Tessa as well as Solvano and Calvin were the only survivors of the accident.
They were admitted to Kimberley Hospital. Tessa was discharged on Saturday and Calvin on Sunday.
According to the family, Neo’s neck was broken and Tessa sustained a broken arm. Solvano’s leg was broken during the incident, however, Calvin did not sustain any injuries but was admitted for severe shock and trauma.
The driver of the Land Cruiser was admitted to Gariep Hospital and was discharged on Saturday.
Family members gathered at the scene on Friday night and wept after seeing the remains of the Corolla.
Vanessa and Lettie’s cousin, Annie Kokobe, said that, prior to the accident, the family had so many celebrations planned.
“Lettie and Eric were planning on getting married on November 4. Everything was already planned and the invitations were all sent out. We were all waiting in anticipation for the big day. We even started a family WhatsApp group and the main topic was the wedding. We were planning on having a traditional wedding. Lettie and Eric had already arranged everything and the rest of the family was only responsible for the after-party.
“Petronella was also going to celebrate her 16th birthday on Tuesday. We were also looking forward to a new addition to the family as Lettie was four-and-a-half months pregnant.
“We never imagined that we now have to arrange their funerals,” Kokobe said.
She stated that, after hearing the impact of the accident on Friday night, she never imagined that it might be her family members involved.
“I stay in Club 2000 and my house is across the Barkly Road. We usually hear the cars that drive up that road and some of the accidents on the road. My cousin was at my house at the time and we heard the loud bang of the impact of the accident. Usually, I do not go out and look at the accident. However, on Friday night my cousin insisted we must go and see what happened.
“I was standing at the back of the house but could not see over the wall. My son jumped over and shouted at me to come quick. I became agitated and rushed to the scene. I saw Calvin lying on the ground near the door of the car. Calvin was lying on his back and I hurried to him. I spoke to him and he responded.
“Neo and Solvano were also lying outside the car. Tessa was crying and stuck inside the car. I saw that she was sitting on Lettie’s lap, who was just sitting there motionless. My cousin and one of the paramedics got Tessa out of the car and also put her on the ground.
“Neo was lying motionless on the ground but Solvano was groaning. I stayed with the children until the ambulance came to take them away.”
Kokobe said that she first called Calvin’s mother before she posted the news of the accident on the family’s WhatsApp group.
“The family made their way to the scene. Lettie and Vanessa’s parents were also there and just devastated. We are still devastated and the entire incident feels so surreal, seeing as it was so many people who all died at the same time.”
The younger sister of the two deceased sisters, Sharon Witbooi, said that she had spent the afternoon with the deceased prior to the accident.
“We were all at Forest View Farm before the incident. Eric was staying and working on the farm. He would usually come to visit us in Soul City or we would go spend the day at the farm. We, the children included, usually walk to the farm as it is not far from our homes. On Friday, I, however, decided to walk home. I had an unexplainable urgency which pushed me to go home. I decided to leave before sunset with two of my children.
“The moment I arrived home, Lettie called and asked why I had left as we were all having a good time on the farm. She said that they were going to come to me and we were going to spend the remainder of the day together. They, however, never arrived,” said Witbooi.
The family said that the reason why there were 12 people in the car was because it was too late for the children to walk home alone at that time of night.
“The children had no problem walking to the farm. On Friday it was, however, too dark for them to walk home alone. The plan was that the children would be dropped off at home and Eric was going to spend the night at Lettie’s house in Soul City,” they said.
The family said that the parents of the deceased were struggling to accept the news.
“We cannot believe that all these people, whom we were speaking to and spending time with earlier in the day, would be gone forever. Our mother is still in shock but our father is trying to be strong.
“We had so many plans and so much to celebrate. Our father even found the wedding rings of Lettie and Eric inside the pocket of the jacket he put on when he rushed to the hospital. We just cannot comprehend this.”
The family said that there is currently no date set for the funeral.
Police spokesperson, Captain Olebogeng Tawana, confirmed the incident.
“Kimberley police are investigating a case of culpable homicide after eight people were killed in an accident on the R31 road near Kimberley.
“The accident happened on Friday at about 8.15pm. A Toyota Land Cruiser rear-ended a Toyota Corolla and fatally injured eight of twelve occupants of the Corolla.
“The driver of the Corolla and three children were transported to the local hospital to receive medical treatment. The driver of the Land Cruiser was also transported to the hospital with minor injuries. The investigation continues,” said Tawana.
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