Knysna bus crash survivors tell their tales

Neil and Janine Oelofse

“MY sister is lying dead in the water. I would also be dead if the man did not grab me by the hand and pull me out the window.”

These are the haunting words of Jorika Kiewiets, 7, whose twin sister Jorina died in Wednesday’s horror bus crash outside Knysna.

Two Knysna families each lost three children in the accident near Rheenendal, and two other children each lost their twin sibling.

The full devastation of the tragedy was driven home yesterday as distraught and shocked parents attended a meeting with all the pupils at Rheenendal Primary School in the local community hall.

Fourteen children lost their lives, along with bus driver Taan Colin Payle, 65, when their African Express school bus, contracted by the Western Cape Education Department to take them to school every day, plunged into the Kasatdrift River about 20km from Knysna.

Paulina Fiegeland lost all three of her children – Maurisha, 15, Felicity, 10, and Andre, 12 – in the accident. She attended yesterday’s meeting where the children sang We Shall Overcome but was too sedated to talk about her sad loss. The Mello family also lost three children – Lugan, 8, Lisa, 9 and Antonio, 6.

 Jorika clung to her sobbing mother, Veronica, outside the community hall. Jorina had been sitting next to her sister on the bus.

“When we reached her in the hospital she said: ‘My sister is lying dead in the water’,” said Veronica, 24. “She told me: ‘I would also be dead if the white man did not grab me by the hand and pull me out the window’.”

The twins’ grandfather, John Kiewiets, also lost his 11-year-old son, Marco, in the tragedy.

“Marco and Jorina apparently called out for help, but they were stuck,” Kiewiets said.

He had to identify the two bodies at the mortuary. “I can’t forget how they looked,” he said.

Chriswin Vryburg lost his twin, Cheswin, 15. Their father, Chris, said his grief was “tearing me apart inside”. Chriswin, who survived the accident, stood silently with him.

Southern Cape police spokesman Captain Malcolm Pojie said the pathologist had already started conducting post-mortems on the children, but the results were not yet known.

A memorial service will be held for those who died in Rheenendal on Monday night. Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.

The list of victims are:

1. Ashwell Davidson, 17
2. Michael Sass, 9
3. Rayleen Wessels, 11
4. Marushaan Meyer, 13
5. Maurisha Fiegeland, 15
6. Felicity Fiegeland, 10
7. Andre Fiegeland, 12
8. Lugan Mello, 8
9. Lisa Mello, 9
10. Antonio Mello, 6
11. Jorina Kiewiets, 7
12. Marco Kiewiets, 11
13. Cheswin Vryburg, 15
14. Octavia Williams, 14
15. Taan Colin Payle, 65

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