27 March 1985 Marks the anniversary of the Westdene Bus Disaster where 42 school children died after a yellow double decker bus plunged into the Westdene Dam.
I never knew about this tragedy until I read about this story on News24 about an ex-journalist who made racist comments about the disaster. He was taken to court and was sentenced to an apology and to clean the graves of the victims of the tragedy.
I do not want to talk about this incident but rather share the history about the Westdene Bus Disaster that I have learnt.
So here goes…
I would like to thank www.westdene1985.co.za who gave MyJozi access to images featured on their Westdene Bus Disaster tribute website.
The Westdene Bus Disaster of 27 March 1985
On 27 March, 72 children were travelling on a yellow double decker bus transporting school children from the Vorentoe High School. The bus was travelling on the bridge of the Westdene Dam where for an unknown reason, it lost control and plunged into the Westdene Dam.
Within seconds the bus sank to the bottom of the dam. I read reports from survivors that some kids tried to kick out windows but they would not break. But 30 children managed to escape the bus. Some swam to safety where others were rescued. 42 children were not as lucky and tragically passed away.
There were hundreds of bystanders within minutes of the disaster. It is said that hysterical parents rushed between the crash scene and the J.G. Strijdom Hospital to find their children, but many never found their children alive.
35 of the victims of the Westdene Bus Disaster were buried in the Heroes Acre of the Westpark Cemetery on 1 April 1985 during a mass funeral ceremony. The 7 remaining victims were either buried in other sections of the cemetery or cremated.
A memorial was built in 2009 on the North West bank of the dam off Tenby Str. Vorentoe High School holds an annual Memorial Service to remember the passing of the 42 victims.
|Anna BlignautAnne-Lize Botha
Linda Du Plooy
Reinette Du Plooy
Francois Du Toit
Jocobus Els, Jacobus
|Anel JacobsLelanie Jooste
|Anna MorrisAlbertus Ouwenkamp
Petrus Der Westhuizen
Elsa Van Heerden
Anna Van Tonder
The Bus Driver
Willem Horne, the bus driver survived the accident. He was under close police guard in hospital while recovering as angry parents and family believed that the accident was racially motivated.
He was later released from hospital and attacked in his home by three men and left for dead with a large slash in his neck. Willem was charged with culpable homicide. His case was heard in March 1986 where Judge Johann Kriegler declared Horne not guilty.
Willem’s comments after the trial:
“My family and I have been very distressed at this tragedy. I pray to God to give us the strength and to give the families of the children the strength to overcome the disaster. I express my deep condolence to the families. I want to thank all the people that stood by me and gave me message of support, and I also thank my employers for my job.”
Westdene Bus Disaster Images
Please note that same of these images are really sad. Please do not view them if you are of a sensitive nature.