A TSITSIKAMMA pupil, aged six, died in a freak bus accident a few hundred metres from her home just minutes after being dropped off after school on Monday afternoon.
A seven-year-old pupil, whose identity has not been released, was seriously injured in the same accident, which took place at about 3.15pm on a gravel road leading to Robhoek Farm where the dead girl, Woodlands Primary School pupil Jamie-Lee Martin, lived.
The boy, who lives on a farm in the same area, was in a stable condition and recovering in the Kareedouw Hospital yesterday.
Scores of traumatised children broke down in tears at the accident scene where the driver of the 20-seater bus, whose identity has not yet been released by the police, allegedly reversed the vehicle and drove over the two pupils.
According to both police and witnesses, the bus transporting the children from schools in the Tsitsikamma and Storms River area to farms in the region deviated from its normal route by cutting it short and had stopped at the Robhoek Farm turn-off as the driver, 41, was running late.
While police, who are still investigating the accident, said yesterday the two children were believed to have been hanging on to a bumper and tow bar at the back of the bus before the accident, an eye witness refuted this and alleged that the driver, who had been warned about the presence of the children, had simply been in too much of a hurry.
Shocked family members, including the little girl’s anguished mother Jolene Martin, 36, and neighbours gathered at the family home yesterday where they shed tears over the tragedy, which they said could have been prevented.
Martin, who works on the Robhoek dairy farm with her husband Isaac, 30, was too traumatised to fully discuss the accident, but said: “He [the driver] should have looked. I am very, very heart-sore.”
Eyewitness and family member Bianca Martin, 17, said she had told the driver about the children behind the bus.
“He just reversed. He stopped the bus when I shouted, but then he reversed again. The bus just drove over Jamie-Lee and the other boy,” the tearful aunt said.
She described Jamie-Lee as “bubbly and full of life” and said she loved music and dancing. “This was her first five months at school. She loved school. She was so excited every day to go to school,” Bianca said.
An aunt, Audrey Martin, 28, said the entire family was “extremely sad”.
Storms River police investigating officer Constable Johannes Nett said the driver had not been arrested, but that police were investigating a culpable homicide docket.
Constable Eljan Masimla, who was at the scene with Nett on Monday, said he had to console a number of children who broke down in tears after the accident.