Mitchell’s Plain schools are reeling after five primary school pupils died and several others were injured when the bakkie they were travelling in crashed into a bus in AZ Berman Drive, opposite the Liberty Promenade mall this morning, Tuesday May 30.
A seriously injured pupil was airlifted to hospital for critical care.
Education MEC David Maynier confirmed that the pupils, from Wespoort, Harvester, Ridgeville, Highlands and Duneside primary schools died.
A Lentegeur High School pupil and a Ridgeville Primary School pupil were in hospital.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) counselling support teams are supporting the affected schools.
Mr Maynier said it was a sad day in the province. “A tragic accident has taken the lives of several young learners, with others receiving intensive care in hospital,” he said.
According to his office the pupils were “travelling on the back of a bakkie, which reportedly collided with a traffic robot”.
WCED counselling support teams were dispatched to the affected schools.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and the school communities. This is an unimaginable tragedy.
“Our thoughts are also with the learners currently being treated in hospital,” read Mr Maynier’s media statement.
Harvester Primary School deputy principal, Fahiema Mosavel, confirmed that one of their pupils had died. She had been to the scene along with the principal to help identify whether the pupils were from the Westridge school.
“It is very traumatising. I just broke down when I saw the pupils lying there…” she said.
Ms Mosavel said they had to deal with the accident and look after the pupils at school. “We need to be strong for them,” she said.
Anthony Europa, principal of Ridgeville Primary School, said in his 30 years of teaching he had never experienced something as tragic.
“A Grade 2 girl, one of the five pupils, passed away and her boy cousin, in the same grade, suffered minor injuries. It was carnage and terrible to see. I don’t know what to say, I am in a state of shock. This was terrible to see. I can only imagine what our parents are going through,” he said.
Duneside Primary School principal Lee Hoffman, in a WhatsApp group text, confirmed that a Grade R pupil from the school was among the fatalities.
He appealed to the community not to share or forward video clips and images of the scene. “We would not want the parents of the deceased to discover the passing of their children via social media. Let us not partake in this practice as a school,” read his message.
He also asked that the families of the deceased be kept in prayer. “From our side, we will engage the education district to assist with counselling for our staff and learners as we don’t know how this may affect us psychologically and otherwise.
“As a school, we will also plan a memorial service for the deceased. This to be discussed at our staff meeting this coming Thursday afternoon,” read the message.
Western Cape police spokesman, Sergeant Wesley Twigg, said the driver, 55, was arrested, and faces charges of culpable homicide. He is due to appear in Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court on the charges.
He confirmed that five children, aged between 7 and 11, died and two children, aged between 6 and 15, were taken to hospital.
Ricardo Mackenzie, MEC for Mobility, said he was outraged by this accident. “How many more children must we lose on our roads before the transportation of these precious lives is taken seriously by those driving the vehicles?
“Anyone who is transporting passengers – especially children whose bodies are more vulnerable to injury – has the weighty responsibility to keep them safe.
“Vehicles must be roadworthy; drivers must be qualified and an operating licence is required to transport passengers,” he said.
He said that cutting corners with any of these requirements and driving recklessly was a matter of life or death.
“My condolences and prayers go out to these parents who are now faced with the grief of losing a child, and those with children in the hospital,” he said.
Less than six weeks ago, a Grade 5 Rocklands Primary pupil was killed on the corner of AZ Berman Drive and Marguerite Street, Lentegeur, on Monday April 24, at 8.30am – the taxi the pupil was in was overloaded with 33 pupils (“Boy, 10, dies in taxi crash”, Plainsman, April 25).
Mr Mackenzie said that anyone wishing to report illegal or unsafe transport operators in the metro should contact the City of Cape Town’s traffic department, for enforcement and possible impoundment if the vehicle is unsafe, overloaded or the driver is unqualified.
“I have recently attended two community meetings in Mitchell’s Plain to address the issues around learner transport and ensure that operators are properly registered and licensed,” he said (“Emergency meeting on scholar transport”, Plainsman, May 17).
Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis expressed the City’s deepest condolences to the families.
His statement read that a collision between a light delivery vehicle, minibus taxi and Golden Arrow Bus led to the tragic death of several scholars on their way to school.
“Our City mourns together with the families of scholars who died in the fatal crash in Mitchell’s Plain this morning.
“This is a terrible, dark day in our city. As a parent, my heart breaks for those who will not see their children return home from school today.
“While it can never restore the lives so tragically taken, we trust that authorities will establish the full facts surrounding this incident so that there may be accountability for any wrongdoing,” read the statement.
Elton Jansen, Sub-council 17 chairman, called for the banning of pupils being transported on open vehicles, bakkies, overcrowded vehicles, and vehicles without the necessary safety measures.
“I would like to convey my deepest and sincerest condolences to the families experiencing the heartache of their tragic loss. I also wish a speedy recovery to the scholars who have sustained injuries due to this accident,” read his media statement.
“My prayers are with the affected schools and families and friends,” wrote Mr Jansen.
Anyone with information about this accident is asked to call Crime Stop on 086 001 0111.