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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Riebeeckstad bus tragedy: Plastic surgery, trauma and the search for truth

One of the survivors of the bus accident which claimed the lives of six Riebeeckstad High pupils, will have to undergo plastic surgery.

A carefree summer excursion took a tragic turn on Tuesday when the bus in which a group of Riebeeckstad High School pupils were travelling, overturned on the R70 Ventersdorp-Senekal road, in the Free State,

Six schoolgirls between the age of 13 and 14 died on the scene while 48 of the other pupils were injured.

The 58 Grade 8 and Grade 12 pupils were on their way back to Welkom from a recreational school camp in the Moolmanshoek Nature Reserve near Ficksburg and Rosendal when a wheel came lose.

The group of pupils were accompanied by two teachers of whom one was the bus driver.

Bus accident survivor might need plastic surgery

According to an update provided by Free State Health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi on Wednesday, two of the girls who were admitted to Senekal’s Itemoheng Hospital last night were transferred to the Dihlabeng Regional Hospital.

Mvambi said that specialist examinations at the hospital determined that due to the severity of the injuries sustained by one of the two pupils, there is a high possibility that she will be transferred to Bloemfontein’s Pelonomi Hospital for neurosurgery.

She has also sustained multiple facial injuries and might have to undergo plastic surgery.

The majority of the other pupils who sustained injuries, have been discharged from the Bongani District Hospital and the Welkom Mediclinic where they were treated.

Tyre of bus burst on way to camp

Shocked parents and pupils gathered at the all-girls school on Wednesday morning in the aftermath of the horror accident.

Officials of the Free State Department of Education and the provincial government, including Education MEC, Makalo Mohale, also paid a visit to the school, where social workers offered support to the traumatised pupils, teachers, parents and family members.

Didah Motaung, a parent whose daughter was injured in the accident, told OFM News that one of the tyres of the bus burst while they were en route to Moolmanshoek on Monday.

Didah Motaung said her stranded child sent her a video of the burst tyre.

“I’m supportive of the school and they are in my prayers. However, if you had to send help because your bus is on the side of the road with children… My child was stuck on that very same bus and sent me a video with crying emojis, showing their tyre burst. So going to the camp, she already had that bit of trauma,” Motaung added.

She told the publication that she now wonders whether the accident could have been avoided, especially after reading some comments posted on social media by former pupils who claimed that the bus had been problematic already 10 years ago.

ALSO READ: Six schoolgirls killed, 48 injured in horror bus accident in Free State

Police investigation into cause of accident

“It is with heavy hearts that we extend our deepest condolences to the families during this difficult time,” Free State Police Commissioner Lt Gen Baile Motswenyane said. 

“We appeal to our communities to be sensitive about the details pertaining to this accident and avoid communicating unconfirmed information which might cause unnecessary confusion to the families which are already going through very difficult times.”

The Free State police are investigating the cause of the accident. A case of culpable homicide is possible, but it’s still too early to hold anyone liable until it has been proven as such by the outcome of the investigations.

The names of the deceased cannot be released at this stage, as the next of kin are still in a process of formally identifying them.

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