Every man for himself? 23 injured as driver deserts pupils in bus with no steering wheel
A Lichtenburg school bus driver abandoned a moving vehicle with pupils on board when the steering wheel came off.
A bus transporting pupils in Lichtenburg hit a tree after the steering wheel came off on Tuesday this week. Photo: iStock
The dismal state of scholar transport in the North West province has been thrust into the spotlight again after 23 Lichtenburg pupils were injured when the steering wheel of their bus came off and the vehicle hit a tree on Tuesday.
The driver reportedly jumped out off the moving vehicle when he lost control over the bus carrying 51 pupils.
Three pupils from the Gaetsho Secondary and JM Lekgetha Combined Schools in Lichtenburg have been admitted to hospital and more than 20 were treated for light injuries after the incident.
Lichtenburg school bus steering wheel shock
According to North West Community Safety and Transport Management spokesperson Lucas Mothibedi, an “18-year-old pupil recalled how the steering wheel of the bus came off on a previous occasion, but the driver was then apparently able to put it back again”.
Netwerk24 reported that preliminary investigations show the bus operator apparently hired another bus for the roadworthy test.
DA calls for North West scholar transport audit
Democratic Alliance (DA) North West MPL Freddy Sonakile said the accident is “another sad reminder of the poor state of some of these vehicles”.
Sonakile urged the provincial department to take heed of the DA’s repeated call for a North West scholar transport tender audit.
She said the opposition party has been inundated with complaints from parents, teachers and pupils about the poor state of some scholar transport vehicles since the beginning of this school year.
SIU findings on tender irregularities
Last year, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) released damning findings against the provincial department for irregularly awarding the previous scholar transport tender. This also saw some service providers having to return the payments they already received.
“Clearly, the [North West Community Safety and Transport Management] MEC Sello Lehari did not take note of the findings when the Department of Community Safety and Transport Management awarded new scholar transport tenders last year,” Sonakile commented.
According to her, the DA will write to Lehari, demanding that the MEC submit all the details surrounding this new scholar transport tender.
The request will include details of the vehicles, owners, roadworthiness certificates, and all due processes that were followed by the department in awarding these contracts.
Riebeeckstad High School bus tragedy
On the same day as the Lichtenburg accident, six Riebeeckstad High School pupils were killed and 48 injured when the bus they were travelling in overturned about 30km from Ventersburg, in the Free State.
According to the Department of Basic Education, Senekal police confirmed the bus overturned after a wheel came loose and the driver lost control on the R70 Ventersburg-Senekal road.
On Thursday morning, a school taxi in Cliffdale, Durban was involved in a serious head-on collision, causing multiple injuries among the pupils it was transporting to school.
- At the time of writing, no further details were available.
At the time of writing Emergency services and local authorities were actively responding and investigating the incident.