Zimbabwean survivor recalls SA horror bus crash that claimed 21 lives, left more than 60 injured

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By Pretoria News

PRETORIA – One of the survivors of the bus crash that claimed at least 21 lives and left more than 60 people injured has described the accident as the “worst event” he has seen in his 59 years of life.

Jacob Sibanda, who is of Zimbabwean descent, said it was God’s choice to keep him alive or take his life together with the 21 others.

The bus collided head-on with a cash-in-transit van that was allegedly trying to overtake another vehicle on the N1 outside Louis Trichardt in Limpopo.

The bus rolled off a bridge and into a river during the collision, which took place outside the Hendrik Verwoerd tunnel heading towards Musina on Monday evening.

According to law enforcement officials, the bus was ferrying passengers from Louis Trichardt to nearby villages including Nzhelele, Tshikombani and Siloam.

Speaking to the Pretoria News yesterday, Sibanda who had just left Siloam the day before, was desperately trying to get hold of his wife in Zimbabwe to let her know he had been involved in a bus accident.

Sibanda lives in Louis Trichardt and was going to meet his wife to hand over groceries for their children in Zimbabwe.

“I cannot remember what happened. I normally take the food to Beit Bridge where I meet my wife. But this time it was decided that she take a bus to Siloam so we could exchange parcels here, because I needed to be at work in the evening.

“This must have been the worst moment of my life. It was horrific because my eyes were wide open, but I don’t remember a thing. There was a loud bang and the next thing I remember I was in water and being carried by people,” he said.

Sibanda, who is self-employed as a merchant in Louis Trichardt, said he was not sure how he got out of the crash alive.

“I don’t know how I ended up in the water. I truly thought I was dead. I’m very happy to be alive because it was God’s will.”

Sibanda was among the few who were lucky and sustained mild injuries. Others are still in a critical condition in Siloam and Elim hospitals.

Paramedics and rescue personnel were able to retrieve 19 bodies from the crash.

Two other people died in hospital while the search for others in the nearby rivers continues as some were swept away.

South African Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, visits survivors of the horrific bus crash in hospital. Picture: Supplied

ER24 spokesperson, Ross Campbell, reportedly said most of the people who died had been trapped under the bus in the river.

Those that did survive owed their lives to passers-by like Musekwa Ben Maemu, who stopped to help and reportedly stayed on the scene for hours.

A police probe as to what could have happened is under way amid speculation that the bus could have been overloaded.

However, the spokesperson for Transport and Community Safety, Tidimalo Chuene, said she was not aware of such speculation.

Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday she said: “I have not seen such speculation from the preliminary report.”

The incident has been widely reported across the world and was the worst to take place since the December holidays.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered his condolences to the families of the 21 people who died in the collision.

Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, and Limpopo MEC for Transport and Community Safety, Florence Radzilani, visited families of those who lost their lives and the survivors who were still in hospital.

“Various entities of the state have also been activated to come on board to provide assistance and support to the families of the deceased and the injured following the crash, including professional counselling services and possible material support,” said Chikunga.

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has called on the province to pray for the families of the dead.

He was speaking after meeting with the South African Council of Churches yesterday.

“We send condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident.

It is befitting that churches and faith-based communities join us in comforting and grieving with the families through prayer.

“I have particularly asked the SA Council of Churches to assist in keeping the 51 people who are injured in their prayers, wishing them a speedy recovery.

“We dispatched the MEC for Transport and Community Safety, Florence Radzilani, who has been liaising with the families since the news of this tragedy broke,” said Mathabatha.