An eye witness who was one of the passengers commuting on the bus which collided with a stationary truck in an accident in which eight lives were lost has blamed the tragedy on “distraction” of the driver.
The horrific accident involving a bus carrying 89 passengers and a stationary truck happened on the notorious N8 just outside Mandela View, about 15km from Bloemfontein on Monday morning.
Six women died at the scene while two men aged 41 and 57, died later at Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein.
A passenger on the bus – who did not want to give his full names to media – blamed the accident on “distraction of the bus driver” saying the driver lost focus briefly leading to the accident.
“I am lucky to be alive…” he said “When the accident happened, I was sitting a few seats behind the driver and I saw him trying to pick up something between his legs and that’s when he lost control of the bus”.
He said he could not see what the problem with the driver was but something was wrong where he was sitting.
“Seconds after that… I found myself lying on the road bleeding,” said the passenger.
Police spokesperson Constable Peter Kareli said the commuter bus from Botshabelo rear-ended a stationary truck that was in the emergency lane.
“Six women died at the scene and two men died later in hospital while 13 injured people were taken to either to Botshabelo or Pelonomi hospitals in Bloemfontein and 48 others had slight injuries,” Kareli said.
Police have opened a case of culpable homicide which is being investigated by the Bloemspruit police.
“A culpable homicide docket has been opened and is being investigated by the Bloemspruit police,” Kareli said.
Inter State Bus Line spokesperson, Thando Lepele, confirmed that the 114-seater bus, which was carrying 89 passengers at the time of the accident, was from Botshabelo Section W on its way to Central Park, Bloemfontein.
She said their expert accident team was onsite to determine the facts of the accident pending investigation.
“We can confirm six passengers died at the scene and 51 other passengers sustained major and minor injuries.
“The rest of the passengers who were not injured were safely transported to their destination after being assessed by paramedics,” Lepele said.
She said her company would assist the families of the deceased through the insurance road cover and the injured passengers would be assisted through the road accident fund procedure and Inter State bus company’s insurance where applicable.
“We wish to apologise to our valued commuters and other road users for the inconvenience caused by this unfortunate incident, Lepele said.”
Messages of condolences have been pouring in to the families affected by the accident.
Free State premier Ace Magashule has expressed shock at the tragic passing of passengers saying he intended to visit the families over the weekend to assist with necessary support.
“We send our condolences to the families, relatives, friends, colleagues of the deceased. We are deeply touched by this horrific incident. We also wish those who have been injured to recover quickly. We say to the family of the deceased, your loss is our loss. Tshedisehang hoba ha ho theohe se sa theoheng,” said Magashule.
He said working with the Mangaung Metro Municipality and MEC for police, roads and transport Sam Mashinini he will visit their families.
“I will be visiting the families from Saturday (tomorrow) and working together with the municipality and MEC Mashinini – who have already started with some processes – we will take it from there,” he said.
ANC Mangaung regional spokesperson Ncamile Nxangisa has appealed to motorists to respect the rules of the road and exercise tolerance on the road.
“We are appealing to road users to exercise patience and obey the rules of the road while driving so we can avoid having so many accidents that take lives of our loved once. The leadership will visit the affected families in due course. We are all saddened by the loss of so many lives on our roads,” said Nxangisa.
Free State speaker of the provincial legislature Mamiki Qabathe said she is also saddened by this and has conveyed her heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased and all who are affected by this loss.
“Road Safety is everybody’s responsibility; we call on all our drivers to exercise restraint when it comes to speed in order to have total control while transporting our people” she said.
The names of the six people who died as a result of the accident have been released by the department of health.
Department spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, says the remaining two bodies are yet to be identified by families.
“It is an appeal we want to make to the community. Please come to the Government Mortuary in Bloemfontein to help us identify your loved ones,” says Mvambi.
He says eight patients are still receiving care at the Pelonomi Hospital. Four of these patients have been admitted to the Trauma Unit, one to the Orthopaedic Unit and one is receiving treatment in the High Care Unit.
All patients are said to be in critical but stable condition currently.