Gawuzela spent some time looking for his wife and child’s luggage and when he found them, he began sobering.
Cape Town – There was a sombre mood, tears and anguish as some families of the people killed in a horrific bus accident on the N2 in the Eastern Cape began identifying their loved ones at the state mortuary in East London on Tuesday.
The accident on Monday claimed the lives of 30 people. Among them were 22 women, three children under four years old, one child estimated to be between two and four months, and four men.
Nine people, including a one-year-old boy, were taken to Frere Hospital in East London to be treated for their injuries while others were provided with an alternative transport as they did not require to be admitted in hospital.
The DMJ double-decker bus travelling from Cape Town to Mthatha, veered off the notoriously dangerous Kei Cuttings near Butterworth. It brought memories of March last year when 25 people were killed and 72 injured in a bus accident in the quiet village of Qolweni in Nxaxhu, outside Centane in the Eastern Cape.
The AB350 bus, contracted by the provincial government to service rural routes, was travelling from the coastal village of Chebe carrying people, mostly pensioners, to Butterworth for shopping via Centane town.
While he survived Monday’s accident, Sandile Gawuzela, who was on board to Mthatha, lost his wife and their two-year-old boy in the accident.
He was too distraught to speak to the media on Tuesday as he had just been discharged from hospital. He was told to go to the state mortuary to identify his family members.
Before identifying his wife and child, he went to the area where the luggage of those who died was kept. Gawuzela spent some time looking for his wife and child’s luggage and when he found them, he began sobering.
“When we were approaching one of the curves (at Kei Cuttings), the bus began speeding. The driver tried to stop but it was too late because it swayed with us two times before veering off the cuttings. There were screams of people. I tried to look out for my loved ones but they were so badly injured. I was also injured,” Gawuzela said.
One of those who died is a 32-year-old Unathi Ngombane from Mthatha. Unathi’s mother was watching television on Monday evening when she heard about the accident.
Unathi’s brother, Viwe Ngombane, told the Cape Times’ sister publication I’solezwe lesiXhosa that: “My mother called the person who was staying with Unathi in Cape Town. After phone calls it was confirmed that Unathi was among those who were on board the bus. We went to the scene to look for her but we could not find her. We went to hospitals but we also could not find her. We only identified her at the state mortuary today.”
Eastern Cape Transport MEC, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, said: “Our forensic team is doing the post mortems. Our colleagues from the Department of Social Development have started to do counselling for those affected. We are working with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (to investigate this).”
Thembisa Mkhohlwa from DMJ said the bus company would continue to work with the families of the deceased, the injured and the government regarding the accident.
“The safety of our passengers is very important to us. This bus has a valid roadworthy certificate.”
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has sent condolences to the families, urging authorities to “investigate the cause of this tragic accident and provide him with a report as soon as possible”.