Twenty school children are dead after their bus crashed. The bus caught on fire after colliding head-on with a truck on a road between the towns of Bronkhorstspruit and Verena, roughly 43 miles north of the capital.
“It is confirmed 20 children have been killed,” a spokesman for the ER24 emergency medical service told AFP. “Paramedics arrived on the scene to find the fire services already in attendance. The fire services had already extinguished the burning vehicle, which was found lying on its side.”
Images show a charred and mangled bus lying in some grass beside the road. The front of the truck was completely destroyed.
“I am saddened,” education minister Panyaza Lesufi said in a statement. “It’s a dark day for education.”
The Gauteng Education Department wrote on Twitter:
“This is a huge loss and we’re deeply pained by the tragic news.”
According to a statement by ER24, several children had reportedly been pulled out of the wreckage by “members of the community.”
“The children were treated for their injuries and provided with advanced life support interventions before they were transported to various hospitals in the area for further treatment,” the statement said.
The statement went on to indicate that over a dozen children were trapped inside the bus and could not be rescued.
“Once the flames had been extinguished, paramedics found that approximately 13 children [were] lying trapped inside the vehicle,” it explained. “Unfortunately, nothing could be done for the children and they were declared dead on the scene.”
“Some of the pupils burnt beyond recognition, as they were trapped inside,” emergency services spokesperson Johan Pieterse said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the collision.
BBC reports that acording to South Africa’s Road Traffic Management Corporation, 13,673 people died in traffic-related incidents in South Africa in a 12-month period from October 2015. That works out to 37 people per day.
On April 20th, merely one day before the bus crash in South Africa, 26 high school students from Ohio were hospitalized after their bus careened off the road in West Virginia and smashed into a tree. The Intelligencer reports that several of the students have suffered severe injuries, though none are considered life-threatening.
An investigation into the crash is underway. West Virginia State Police have indicated that speed appears to have a contributing factor.