United in grief

There has been a massive outpouring of grief over a school bus crash in which two grade 7s died and several others were injured.

27 August 2019 | Accidents

The general public and local school community are reeling with shock and grief after two teenagers died tragically in a bus accident on Sunday morning near Kalkrand.

The bus driver was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Messages of condolence and support from across the nation have been pouring in on social media since the accident in which Angela Maiba and Jacques Venter, both 13, died. Yesterday morning several students gathered at Windhoek Gymnasium Private School, where they lit candles and laid wreaths in memory of their fellow learners.

A candlelight ceremony was also organised yesterday evening, in memory of the two Grade 7 learners.

According to the police the fatal accident happened about 30 kilometres south of Kalkrand on the B1 road, when a hired bus transporting Windhoek Gymnasium pupils on a school trip to the Orange River left the road and overturned at about 09:00 on Sunday.





Apart from the two fatalities, scores of pupils sustained serious to light injuries.

Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Kauna Shikwambi confirmed to Namibian Sun that cases of culpable homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol and negligent driving were opened against the bus driver.

The 33-year-old driver was arrested after testing positive for alcohol at the accident scene. Alcohol was also found at the scene.

The bus driver is expected to appear in court this week. He was not injured and is being kept in the Mariental police holding cells.

A group of more than 120 learners and teachers were travelling in two separate buses hired from Sunshine Tours. However, only one of the buses was involved in the accident.

All the uninjured children and teachers were taken back to Windhoek, after the tour was cancelled.

The injured were transported to several local hospitals.

There was speculation of social media over the weekend that indicated the Sunshine Tours buses were also spotted at an earlier accident on Sunday, at about 01:00, when a truck travelling on the Hosea Kutako International Airport road overturned about 10 kilometres from Windhoek with its load of beer.

The truck driver was taken to hospital. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the two Sunshine Tours buses were said to have passed the truck accident scene. According to eyewitnesses the bus drivers allegedly took some of the beers at the scene, which were lying on the ground near the wreckage.

It was claimed further that the buses then proceeded to Windhoek, where they loaded the learners and teachers from Windhoek Gymnasium for their tour to the Orange River.

The police were unable to confirm this at the time of going to print.

In a statement issued by the executive head of Curro Holdings, Colette Rieckert, she confirmed the death of the two learners from Windhoek Gymnasium.

“Curro Holdings confirms that a bus transporting learners to a Grade 7 camp was involved in a serious accident outside Mariental. The accident resulted in the loss of life of two of our learners and serious injuries to others.”

She said the injured learners were taken to hospital and transport was arranged to fetch the other children and return them to Windhoek.

“We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy and are doing everything we can to assist and support learners, staff and families.”

According to Rieckert, the safety of their learners and staff is their top priority, and therefore they are taking every possible measure to ensure the strictest safety standards are applied and adhered to at all times.

She said the learners were transported by an external service provider, Sunshine Tours, and added that the bus driver was not an employee of Windhoek Gymnasium or Curro.

Referring to the case of driving under the influence of alcohol that has been opened against the driver, Rieckert said they view these allegations in an extremely serious light and will leave no stone unturned to assist the police in their investigation.

Sunshine Tours confirmed in a short statement on Facebook that one of their buses that was en route to the Orange River was involved in a most “unfortunate incident”.

The company said they were deeply saddened by the crash, especially the loss of young lives and the injuries sustained.

“Therefore, we wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and their loved ones. We also wish a quick recovery to those who have been injured. We offer our full support and prayers in this very difficult time to all.”

The company said a formal statement will be released once they have more information.



Other crashes

In other accidents that occurred over the Heroes' Day weekend, four women died on Thursday in two separate accidents, after the vehicles they were travelling in overturned several times on the B1 near Otavi in the Otjozondjupa Region.

A mother and her eight-month-old baby boy also died on Thursday night at Kambumbu village in Kavango West, after they were run over by an unlicensed driver.

Two people also died after the vehicle they were travelling in overturned 20 kilometres outside Bethanie in the //Karas Region on Thursday night.

According to statistics by the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund, an average of 66 people lost their lives in 376 road crashes, while 635 were injured over a five-year cycle in the month of August.

ELLANIE SMIT

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