The carnage did not end there, as the driver of a Toyota Rav 4 did not see the wrecked bus and smashed into its side, The Lowvelder reported.
Miraculously, the driver of the latter managed to escape the wreckage before it caught fire too. However, 10 people were burnt beyond recognition and forty more were injured.
An eyewitness’ account of the accident
Mr Richard Prangley was driving right behind the truck and saw it all transpire. “My wife and I were driving about 120 metres behind the truck on our way to White River and saw it slowly drifting into the oncoming lane.
The next moment it collided head-on with a bus travelling towards Hazyview.”
Prangley says there was no traffic to overtake and he didn’t even see the truck’s brake lights come on.
As soon as the two vehicles collided, there was a massive explosion and a ball of fire erupted. According to Prangley, it was amazing that the bus stayed upright, since the front was ripped off and the truck’s cab was mangled.
When the initial flames subsided, passengers started getting out of the front of the bus, some dragging fellow occupants through the flames. There were smaller secondary explosions and pangs, but survivors managed to also climb out of the back of the bus through the burst windows. “It was a very traumatic sight. I thought everyone was killed on impact,” Prangley said. He choked back tears as he recalled the events to Lowvelder. Because of the massive flames, he didn’t dare go any closer to the vehicles.
Prangley complimented the authorities and emergency services for their quick response. “They got the scene under control quickly. By the time I reached the traffic circle at Casterbridge, traffic was already being rerouted.”
Rescue workers attended to the scene
Traffic officials redirected traffic coming from White River around the traffic circle at Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre and onto the R538 road to the Numbi Gate, while traffic from Hazyview was rerouted via a backroad past the White River Country Club.
According to ER 24, ten people were killed and forty injured. ER24 paramedics, as well as other emergency services, arrived on the scene to find the bus ablaze and ten burnt bodies lying around it. Paramedics immediately began treating the crash survivors, who suffered minor to moderate injuries. Some of the patients required advanced life support before they were transported to Rob Ferreira and Themba Hospitals.
A total of 22 patients were taken to Rob Ferreira Hospital, most with minor injuries. The most serious injury was a dislocated shoulder. Fourteen people were taken to Themba, but only two were admitted with serious injuries.
According to Mr Ronnie Masilela, spokesman for the Department of Health, they are currently in a stable condition. The bodies of the 10 deceased are being kept in the state mortuary at Themba Hospital.
Crime scene experts arrived on scene and began their investigation. Members of the K9 unit was also called in to look for bodies that may have been flung out of the vehicles on impact. No bodies were found among the bushes and trees in the area.
Politicians convey their condolences
MEC for Community Safety, Security and Liaison, Mr Vusi Shongwe, also arrived at the scene. He has been commended for always attending serious accident scenes.
Mbombela Municipality spokesman, Mr Joseph Ngala, sent the municipality’s condolences to all the bereaved families. He also requested people who suspect their family or friends were involved in the accident, to report it at White River SAPS.
Mpumalanga Premier Mr David Mabuza has also conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished the people who sustained injuries a speedy recovery.
“It is unfortunate that accidents continue to rob our province of bread winners, bring sorrow and contribute towards complicating the lives of many families,” he said.
Mabuza urged motorists to constantly exercise caution when using the roads and to stop and rest when they feel fatigued. He added that government would continue to do its part in ensuring that all the roads are safe through maintenance and law enforcement.
“As a provincial government, we view accidents in a serious light because the loss of one life is one too many,” said Mabuza.