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45 Dead As Bus Plunges Off Bridge

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In a heart-wrenching incident on a bridge in South Africa, a bus carrying 46 passengers from Botswana met with a tragic accident on Thursday, March 28, 2024, plummeting 164 feet into a ravine and bursting into flames. The accident occurred as the group was en route to a revered Easter service at St. Engenas Zionist Christian Church in Moria, situated approximately 190 miles north of Johannesburg. The catastrophe claimed 45 lives, leaving an 8-year-old girl as the sole survivor amidst the horror.

The bus, identified by its Botswana license plate, was navigating the Mmamatlakala bridge—a vital link between Mokopane and Marken in the Limpopo province—when the accident struck. According to government statements, the driver lost control, causing the vehicle to breach the bridge’s barriers, fall dramatically onto the rocky terrain below, and catch fire upon impact. The intense blaze that ensued made identification and recovery efforts challenging, with many victims burned beyond recognition or trapped within the wreckage.

Simone Mayema, a local resident and among the first on the scene, recounted, “We arrived quickly and attempted to offer assistance, but the flames made it impossible for us to do anything.”

Sindisiwe Chikunga, South Africa’s transport minister, was among the first officials at the scene. Offering condolences, she emphasized the government’s commitment to aiding in the repatriation of the victims’ bodies and initiating a thorough inquiry into the crash’s cause. Chikunga’s presence was part of a broader road safety campaign, underscoring the government’s concern over the nation’s alarming road safety record. South Africa, despite having one of the continent’s most developed road networks, grapples with a high incidence of traffic-related fatalities.

The accident coincides with the first Easter pilgrimage to Moria following a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of the Zionist Christian Church’s annual gathering. Established in 1910 by Bishop Engenas Barnabas Lekganyane, the church attracts hundreds of thousands from across South Africa and neighboring countries, signifying a cultural and spiritual cornerstone for many.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extended his condolences to the victims’ families and promised support to Botswana, marking the crash as a significant tragedy that resonates across borders. His message also reflected a broader appeal for road safety, particularly during the Easter period, which is known for increased travel and, unfortunately, a spike in road incidents.

The Limpopo province, where the accident occurred, is no stranger to traffic-related fatalities, especially during festive periods. Initiatives have been taken to mitigate this issue, with law enforcement agencies intensifying their presence on critical routes. However, the persistently high rates of road fatalities underscore the complex challenges facing South Africa’s road safety measures.

Investigations into the crash are ongoing, with authorities working tirelessly to piece together the events leading up to the tragic incident. The community and the nation mourn the loss of lives, remembering the victims as pilgrims on a spiritual journey cut tragically short.

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