Bus Plunges Into Ravine, 45 Dead

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A horrifying incident unfolded on a South African bridge on March 28, 2024. A bus carrying 46 passengers from Botswana plunged from a height of approximately 164 feet into a ravine, subsequently catching fire. The group was on their way to an Easter service at the St. Engenas Zionist Christian Church in Moria, located roughly 190 miles north of Johannesburg. The calamity resulted in 45 fatalities, with only an eight-year-old girl surviving the horrific event.

The ill-fated bus, recognized by its Botswana license plate, was crossing the Mmamatlakala bridge—a crucial conduit between Mokopane and Marken in the Limpopo province—when the disaster occurred. Government reports indicate that the driver lost control, leading the bus to break through the bridge’s barriers, plummet onto the jagged terrain below, and ignite upon collision. The ensuing inferno complicated identification and recovery efforts, as many victims were either burned beyond recognition or trapped in the debris.

One of the first people on the scene, local resident Simone Mayema, described the situation. “We arrived quickly and attempted to offer assistance, but the flames made it impossible for us to do anything.”

South Africa’s transport minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga, was among the first officials at the scene. Expressing her condolences, she assured the government’s dedication to aiding in the repatriation of the victims’ bodies and initiating a comprehensive investigation into the cause of the crash. Chikunga’s visit was part of a larger road safety campaign, echoing the government’s concern about the nation’s alarming road safety statistics. Despite boasting one of the most advanced road networks in Africa, South Africa struggles with a high number of traffic-related deaths.

The crash happened during the first Easter pilgrimage to Moria after a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This underscores the significance of the annual gathering at the Zionist Christian Church. Founded in 1910 by Bishop Engenas Barnabas Lekganyane, the church draws hundreds of thousands from across South Africa and neighboring countries, symbolizing a cultural and spiritual hub for many.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and promised support to Botswana, acknowledging the crash as a substantial tragedy with cross-border implications. His statement also highlighted a general call for improved road safety, especially during the Easter period, which is known for increased travel and, regrettably, a rise in road accidents.

The Limpopo province, where the crash occurred, is familiar with traffic-related deaths, particularly during festive seasons. Measures have been implemented to address this issue, with law enforcement agencies stepping up their presence on high-risk routes.

Investigations into the accident are ongoing, as authorities strive to reconstruct the chain of events leading to the heartbreaking incident. The community and the nation grieve the loss of lives, remembering the victims as pilgrims on a spiritual journey tragically cut short.

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