Bus Falls Off Bridge, 45 Dead, One Survivor

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On March 28, 2024, a horrific accident occurred in South Africa when a bus fell off a bridge and plunged into a ravine.

The bus, carrying 46 passengers from Botswana, fell approximately 164 feet before catching fire.

The passengers were on their way to the St. Engenas Zionist Christian Church in Moria for a prominent Easter service. The crash resulted in 45 fatalities, leaving a single survivor: an 8-year-old girl.

The vehicle, identifiable by its Botswana license plate, was crossing the Mmamatlakala bridge at the time of the accident. This bridge serves as a major route between Mokopane and Marken in the Limpopo province. Official reports state that the driver lost control, causing the bus to break through the bridge’s barriers and fall onto the rocky area below, where it ignited. The subsequent fire complicated rescue and identification efforts, as many victims were severely burned or trapped in the wreckage.

“We arrived quickly and attempted to offer assistance, but the flames made it impossible for us to do anything,” recalled Simone Mayema, an eyewitness and one of the first rescuers on the scene.

South Africa’s Transport Minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga, was among the first officials to arrive. She expressed her condolences and assured the public of the government’s commitment to repatriate the victims’ bodies and investigate the cause of the accident. Chikunga’s presence at the scene was part of a broader campaign to address road safety, in response to South Africa’s concerning record of traffic fatalities, despite its advanced road network.

The tragic event occurred during the first Easter pilgrimage to Moria after a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual gathering at the Zionist Christian Church, founded in 1910 by Bishop Engenas Barnabas Lekganyane, draws a massive crowd from South Africa and neighboring countries, serving as a significant cultural and spiritual event.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa extended his condolences to the victims’ families and pledged his support to Botswana. His message also included an appeal for road safety, especially during the Easter period, which is typically associated with increased travel and a surge in road accidents.

The accident took place in the Limpopo province, a region known for traffic fatalities, particularly during festive seasons. Efforts to curb this issue have included an increased law enforcement presence on vital routes. However, the high number of road deaths highlights the ongoing challenges in South Africa’s road safety strategies.

As investigations into the circumstances of the crash continue, the grieving community and the country remember the victims who were on a spiritual journey, tragically ended by this accident.

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