SCHOLAR TRANSPORT CRASH
‘Unimaginable tragedy’ as five pre-teen learners killed in horror smash in Cape Town
Cries from parents could be heard just metres from the scene of a horror crash in Mitchells Plain on Tuesday morning as news broke that their children had died while being transported to school.
Five children between the ages of seven and 11 years old died after a vehicle transporting them to school crashed on Tuesday morning in AZ Berman Drive, Mitchells Plain. Two children aged six and 15 years were taken to hospital following the incident.
Police have arrested the 55-year-old driver of the vehicle following the fatal crash and a culpable homicide case was opened for investigation.
Daily Maverick learnt that the driver was not the regular driver of the vehicle and that his niece is one of the deceased children. The usual driver of the vehicle did not report for duty on the day. The vehicle was illegally transporting learners, according to the Western Cape government.
“It is an unimaginable tragedy,” reacted Western Cape Education Department (WCED) MEC David Maynier. “I have a young child myself and I cannot imagine what it must be like for a parent to get this terrible news.”
Distraught parents’ cries could be heard from the road outside AZ Berman Primary School. The incident happened a stone’s throw away from the school and while no learners from the school were involved, Western Cape government officials used the school premises to accommodate the parents who immediately received counselling services.
Sorrowful community members watched on as law enforcement officials attended the crime scene.
Subcouncil 17 chairperson and local ward councillor Elton Jansen confirmed that learners from Wespoort Primary School, Lentegeur High School, Duneside Primary School, Highlands Primary School, Harvester Way Primary School and Ridgeville Primary School were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
While details surrounding the incident are still limited, Western Cape Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie said the driver lost control of the vehicle before it overturned, causing children to be flung from the back of the vehicle.
“The bus and the taxi circulating on social media were not involved in the accident, they were in the vicinity when it happened. What we know so far is that the driver is not a registered driver with a permit and is not on any of our databases.”
Parents often arrange their own private scholar transport for their children studying far from their homes. These services are privately owned and mostly arranged without the government’s involvement.
In February 2023, taxi drivers prevented private scholar transport services from operating as taxi drivers wanted to be awarded the scholar transport tender.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Taxi drivers prevent more than 1,800 Cape Town learners from going to school
Mackenzie said the vehicle involved in Tuesday’s crash was private transport arranged by the parents and neither his department nor WCED were involved.
He also confirmed to Daily Maverick that this was not the first incident in Mitchells Plain where learners were involved in a fatal crash while being transported to school.
Two primary school learners died in two separate incidents in April this year. One learner was from Hazeldene Primary School and the other was from Rocklands Primary.
Mackenzie also confirmed that the vehicle (a bakkie) was not permitted to transport schoolchildren.
In 2012, taxi driver Jacob Humphreys was sentenced to 20 years in jail for the death of 10 school children in a crash and the attempted murder of four others.
Humphreys ignored safety signals at a level crossing and caused a collision with a train, resulting in the death of the children.
He was released on parole in 2016.
Damaris Kiewiets from the Cape Metro Health Forum said officials should pay attention to how school children are transported.
“This is a second incident in just five months and it raises a concern for us as parents. Are these vehicles roadworthy? Would educators and MECs allow their children to be transported in these vehicles?”
The driver is expected to appear in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court once he has been charged. DM
For information on operating licences for public transport, please contact the Provincial Regulatory Entity on 021 696 3213/14 or their Applications Helpline on 021 483 0270.