THE terrified screams of passengers will haunt bus crash survivor Mothemba Magangxa forever.
The 39-year-old mother, whose three- year-old daughter was among 11 people killed in a horrific bus accident outside Oudtshoorn yesterday, recalled the harrowing last minutes of the crash, which also left 22 passengers seriously injured.
Two tourists from the United Kingdom were among the injured.
“My child stopped screaming. People were falling on top of me and I could not see her anymore,” the shattered Cape Town domestic worker recalled.
The little girl’s father, Wehinton Nolzweni, who lives and works in the Eastern Cape, would have met his daughter for the first time in Queenstown yesterday.
The Intercape bus the mother and daughter were travelling on from Cape Town to Queenstown, crashed about 25km outside Oudtshoorn during the early hours of the morning.
Of the 52 people on board, 41 survived, including the bus driver, co-driver and hostess.
Two of the 11 people who died were children.
Magangxa and her daughter were on their way to Queenstown for her brother-in-law’s funeral when the tragedy happened.
“I don’t even have a picture of her. We wanted to take one of all of us together at the funeral,” she said from the Oudtshoorn Provincial Hospital yesterday.
“She [her daughter] was sleeping on my lap, when the bus suddenly started swerving and she fell off. I tried to catch her, but the bus swerved again and she slid deeper under the seat. I tried to reach for her and the bus made a screeching sound and then fell over.
“I hit my head against something and someone’s foot hit my face. My head was on the floor and I saw blood in the passageway between the seats.
“I could not see my daughter and I wondered if it was her blood.”
Magangxa said the terrible screams of the passengers would be with her forever.
Eunice Tshangana, 38, of Queenstown, was on her way back from seeing an oncology specialist in Cape Town to discuss her cancer treatment.
“All I know is the bus was going very, very fast. I woke up because the bus was suddenly reversing. I don’t know why.
“Then the bus turned away from Uniondale towards Oudtshoorn and it was going very fast. The bus was zigzagging over the road and then I heard a screeching noise and it just fell over,” Tshangana said.
“I saw blood and people were screaming and trying to hold on to something. There was nothing to hold on to. I felt like a doll being shaken around.”
Fundiswa Ntsaluba, 40, also recalled the bus reversing at some stage after missing a turnoff and then allegedly picking up speed before it crashed.
“Women were crying and children were calling for their mothers. The woman next to me had a baby who fell under a seat. I saw a lot of blood – and a lot of dead people.”
The two UK tourists injured in the crash were on holiday in South Africa for six days. They did not want to be named as they claimed an Intercape representative had offered to pay for their treatment at a private hospital as well as their flights back to the UK.
“We don’t want to jeopardise this,” one of the young women said.
Intercape spokesman Roeline van der Walt did not want to comment on the tourists’ claims, but confirmed details of the accident.
The bus crashed on an infamous stretch of road called Perdeskoendraai at about 1.50am after the driver lost control of the vehicle.
“Emergency services were immediately contacted and the police and ambulance services arrived at about 2am,” Van der Walt said.
“The cause of the accident is still unknown and investigations are under way.”
Intercape’s records showed that a roadworthy test had been performed on the bus on February 7 and was valid until August. A brake test had also been done three days before the crash.
“Intercape has contacted the next of kin of all passengers and is assisting with their immediate needs,” Van der Walt said.
The Western Cape Health Department’s Eden District spokesman Nadia Ferreira said the Oudtshoorn Provincial Hospital was notified of the accident before 3am after which its emergency plan was implemented.
Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle said a full investigation was under way.
Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said the N12 between George and Oudtshoorn was closed until about 10.30am yesterday, with motorists rerouted to the Robinson Pass.
The 25-year-old driver was arrested at 3pm and will appear in the Oudtshoorn Magistrate’s Court today. He is facing 11 counts of culpable homicide. – Yolande Stander