THE driver of a bus that killed nine people outside Polokwane in Limpopo last week has been arrested after he disappeared from the hospital, where he had initially gone to tend to injuries.
Police say George Themba, who fled the scene after crashing the bus on the N1 north on Friday, injuring 51 people, was trying to cross the border back to his home country of Zimbabwe.
Limpopo police spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe confirmed that Themba (41), who is a resident of Harare in Zimbabwe, appeared before the Polokwane Magistrate Court this week on nine counts of culpable homicide and reckless or negligent driving and was denied bail.
His cases were postponed to next month for further investigations.
According to Ngoepe, Themba’s court appearance follows his arrest for the horrific accident where he later tried to cross the border to Zimbabwe after he was taken to hospital with other 51 injured passengers for medical treatment.
“As the process of intensive investigations by the Police was unfolding, especially on the possible cause of that accident, Themba then disappeared following his discharge from hospital and fled towards the Beit- Bridge Port of Entry, where police were tipped-off and subsequently was caught hidden inside the goods trailer trying to illegally cross the border to Zimbabwe and arrested.”
It is understood that the bus rolled down an embankment on the N1 a week after 11 other passengers perished on another bus accident on the same road.
The bus transporting 59 passengers and a toddler was travelling from Harare, Zimbabwe to Gauteng.
In a statement, Emergency Services officials say they arrived on the scene to find a large bus lying on its side on the side of the road and a number of people were also found lying scattered around the vehicle.
“Paramedics immediately set up a triage area and began to secure the scene, upon assessment, paramedics discovered that ten people had sustained numerous, fatal injuries. Nothing could be done for them and they were declared dead on the scene “the statement read.
It said, of the 34 injured, five had sustained critical injuries while 29 others had sustained minor to moderate injuries.
The injured have been transported to various hospitals for urgent treatment.
The Department of Transport called on motorists in the area to not stop as it would cause further disruption, said spokesperson Matome Moremi.
According to Moremi, the details surrounding this incident were unknown, although fatigue was suspected.
On Monday last week, a bus that was travelling from Zambia to Gauteng overturned on the N1 near Mookgophong. Reports indicate that the bus experienced a tyre burst after which the driver lost control and veered off the road.
Last week, Limpopo Transport MEC Makoma Makhurupetje expressed concern about the second bus accident that happened within a space of a week, on the N1 South road.
“This is a second accident to happen within a week involving a long distance bus on the N1. Although investigations are underway, we are seriously worried that we have lost nine lives unnecessarily. In total, we have lost 20 people in a week due to long distance bus accidents. This is worrying. Drastic and immediate steps will have to be taken by our law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance on the road, particularly this weekend as we shall be expecting to receive scores of revellers coming to the province for the annual Moria ZCC pilgrimage. But overall, It is important that drivers taking long distance trips, should check their vehicle’s roadworthiness and also ensure that they frequently rest to avoid fatigue taking its toll”, said Makhurupetje.
She further expressed her heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wished a speedy recovery to the injured passengers.