IN a horror double crash in Port Elizabeth yesterday 100 schoolchildren were injured – four of them critically – when an overloaded bus crashed, followed by a collision involving an emergency vehicle racing to the scene.
While more than 80 pupils were left injured, traumatised and lying outside the bus following the initial crash in Gelvandale, minutes later there was added chaos when the emergency van collided with a bakkie carrying another 19 children.
Hundreds of anxious residents, motorists and passersby who witnessed the first accident in Beetlestone Road stopped to help the injured children and were soon joined by shocked teachers who rushed to the scene on hearing the news.
Of the four Malabar Primary School pupils who were critically injured, one has a severe leg injury that could lead to amputation, while another suffered multiple rib fractures.
Last night they were still undergoing surgery at Livingstone Hospital.
The critically injured Grade 7 pupils – Zanoxolo Tyambo, Buhlebethu Feni, Lifa Claasen and Nwabisa Thsasi – were among the 100 pupils involved from Malabar Primary and other schools in the city.
The successive accidents brought traffic in busy Beetlestone Road to a grinding halt as the victims lay strewn in the road.
Those who live nearby rushed into their homes to mix sugar water to treat pupils who were in shock. Passersby picked up dazed and confused pupils and comforted them while others assessed their injuries.
Within minutes emergency services workers, the police and the fire brigade were on the scene to assist. Traumatised pupils wept and screamed while emergency workers attended to them.
Just a few minutes later, less than 200m away, an Isuzu bakkie transporting 19 pupils from various schools overturned when it collided with the emergency services vehicle racing up Beetlestone Road to get to the bus accident. The children were flung from the bakkie, also sustaining injuries.
As the news broke, scores of parents who heard about the accidents rushed to the scene to find out whether their children were involved.
The bus is licensed to carry 60 passengers but was transporting more than 80 children.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said the first accident happened when the bus transporting the Malabar Primary pupils crashed as it came down Gladiolous Street and into Beetlestone Road at 2.30pm.
The bus transports pupils from the Motherwell area to and from school every day.
“As the driver lost control, the bus slid, overturned and landed on its side. Four pupils suffered serious injuries and 77 others were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
“The 54-year old driver was arrested. Police opened a docket of reckless and negligent driving,” said Labans.
The driver runs his own privately owned bus service.
Although Labans could not confirm the cause of the accident, it is alleged the brakes malfunctioned.
Upon hearing of the accident, traumatised Malabar Primary teachers rushed to assist their pupils.
Teacher Hajira Ismail said when she got to the scene it was chaotic.
“The children were crying and screaming. Most of them were lying outside the bus. It was a terrible sight.
“They had scrapes, bruises and cuts. They were dazed and shocked. Some had lacerations while others were cut and bruised,” said Ismail.
Teachers assisted emergency workers by treating their pupils with supplies from the school’s first-aid kits.
Twelve-year-old Bulelani Ndayi was sitting next to his sister, Liyandiswa, 6, when the bus overturned.
“We were coming down the hill when the driver yelled that the bus can’t stop. It did not have brakes. The next thing the bus overturned. Everyone was shouting, screaming and crying,” said Bulelani.
“When we came to a standstill I looked for my sister. She was trapped under the seat but I managed to pull her out to safety. I was so scared.”
Liyandiswa had to have stitches to her head. She left Livingstone Hospital in her socks because she had lost both shoes during the crash.
At the scene of the bakkie accident, parents arrived to claim their children.
The driver of the bakkie wept hysterically as she checked to see if all of her children were accounted for.
She was too traumatised to speak.
Malabar deputy principal Eugene Serfontein said the school would arrange trauma counselling for pupils and teachers.