Mamatlakala highway accident

Map
Details
Date28 March 2024 (2024-03-28)
LocationRegional route R518
5 km (3.1 mi) west from Mamatlakala, Limpopo
Coordinates23°58′33″S 28°32′7″E / 23.97583°S 28.53528°E / -23.97583; 28.53528
CountrySouth Africa
Incident typeRoadway departure over a bridge resulting in catastrophic fire of bus
CauseDriver lost control
Statistics
Vehicles1
Passengers46
Deaths45
Injured1

On 28 March 2024, a passenger bus crashed near Mamatlakala in Limpopo, the northernmost province of South Africa, killing 45 people and leaving an eight-year-old girl, who sustained serious injuries, as the sole survivor. According to the South African Department of Transport, the incident occurred when the driver lost control and the bus went over a bridge, subsequently catching fire. The bus was transporting Easter pilgrims from Gaborone, Botswana, to Moria, South Africa.

Background

South Africa has one of the most developed road networks in Africa but one of the worst safety records. During the four-day-long Easter weekend in 2023, the country recorded 185 fatal automobile incidents that resulted in 225 fatalities. In a statement made hours before the crash, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged South Africans to take caution on the roads during the Easter weekend: "Let's do our best to make this a safe Easter. Easter does not have to be a time where we sit back and wait to see statistics on tragedy or injuries on our roads."

The Zion Christian Church, the largest denomination in southern Africa, is headquartered in Moria and attracts millions of Christians from South Africa and surrounding countries with its annual Easter pilgrimages. The 2024 pilgrimage was the first in the town since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crash

The bus had a Botswana licence plate and had been carrying pilgrims from the St. Engenas Zion Christian Church in Molepolole, around an hour from Gaborone, who were headed for an Easter church service in Moria. It had a total of 46 occupants and was travelling on the regional route 518 through the Kloof Pass, a mountainous route that contains numerous tight bends. Initial information suggested the driver had missed the turn-off for the much smoother N11 national route.

The bus fell off the side of the Mma Matlakala Bridge, in Mmamatlakala between Mokopane and Marken, and into the ravine, catching fire after impact on a rocky surface about 50 metres (160 ft) under the bridge. The South African Transport Ministry said the driver lost control of the bus, which caused it to collide with barriers and go off the side of the bridge. It was also pulling a trailer, according to rescue workers, adding additional weight. The fire involved gas canisters, which many passengers were carrying to use for cooking. Surviving passengers were trapped in the wreckage but could not be reached quickly by rescuers before they were burnt alive.

Rescue operations occurred following the crash, and continued until the late evening hours.

Casualties

Forty-five people died in the crash. The sole survivor, an eight-year-old girl, was hospitalized with serious injuries. She was later reported to be in stable condition, with minor lacerations to her arms, legs, head and back. The driver and passengers were all citizens of Botswana.

Some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, while others were hard to reach due to debris scattered over the crash scene. One woman died after being airlifted from the scene. As of 29March, 34 bodies had been recovered from the scene, only nine of them identifiable.

Responses

President Ramaphosa sent condolences to Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi, and pledged support to the nation. South African Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga travelled to the scene of the crash, where she called for responsible driving during the Easter weekend and offered thoughts and prayers for the victims' families. She added that the South African government would assist in repatriating the corpses to Botswana and hold a full inquiry. Botswanan Foreign Minister Lemogang Kwape called the incident a catastrophe, and said that he had received a call from his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor to update him about the situation.

See also


This page was last updated at 2024-04-03 08:08 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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