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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 10:35 GMT
Fifth SA bus Briton dies
Piet Retief crash
Bus crashes are common in South Africa
A fifth Briton is understood to have died from injuries suffered in a bus crash in eastern South Africa.

Five other tourists, believed to be Canadian and German, also died in the crash near the town of Piet Retief, 285 kilometres (170 miles) east of Johannesburg.

Nine of the tourists are believed to have been killed instantly, with the fifth Briton dying from her injuries after being flown to hospital.

The bus swung from side to side as people screamed

Alan Sutherland
The accident on the way back to Johannesburg after a visit to a game park in KwaZulu-Natal province left 11 others injured.

At least four of the injured were understood to be in a critical condition in hospital, after being airlifted to Pretoria.

Scottish survivor Alan Sutherland spoke of the frightening moments leading up to the crash, which happened about 0230 GMT on Wednesday.

"I can't believe we're still alive. I thought that we were going to die.

"The bus swung from side to side as people screamed. It shot off the road and fell to the bottom of a hill."

Passengers' panic

Speaking from the local hospital in Piet Retief, Mr Sutherland added: "The driver lost control of the bus and it swerved two or three times. I still remember the coach running from side to side.

"People were in panic and screaming. The driver was trying to control the bus as best he could. He tried to put it back on the road.

"I was thinking we were going to control it. It just took another swing to another side."

Mr Sutherland said his girlfriend, Lynn Harper, had also survived the accident.

The Foreign Office is still trying to contact the families of all of the victims, and has not yet released their identities.

Nick Sheppard, spokesman for the British High Commission in South Africa, said the five injured Britons were all "doing fine".

Heavy rain

The bus was operated by Springbok Atlas, the same company which owned a bus which crashed in 1999 in the region, killing 26 elderly British tourists and a tour guide.

The driver in that crash, near Lydenburg in Mpumalanga province, survived and was later found guilty of gross negligence.

Police have suggested the driver in the Piet Retief crash - 48-year-old Bonga Ndebele - lost control of the bus in heavy rain and it swerved and overturned.

Carol Scott, the chairwoman of Springbok Atlas, told the BBC that the driver of the 28-seater bus survived.

She said that he and the group's tour guide sustained serious head injuries in the crash.

Safety regulations

Bus crashes are a frequent occurrence in South Africa.

Ms Scott told the BBC that Springbok Atlas had strengthened safety regulations in the wake of the 1999 crash and now all vehicles and drivers were closely monitored, with a tachograph fitted in every bus.

This equipment records the numbers of hours that drivers complete and the speed at which they drive.

Investigators are understood to be examining the tachograph in an effort to find out more about how the crash happened.

The British Foreign Office has set up a hotline for anyone concerned about relatives or friends who may have been on the bus: 020 7008 0000

See also:

31 Oct 02 | Scotland
31 Oct 02 | Africa
28 Sep 99 | Africa
04 Oct 99 | Africa
02 Apr 01 | Africa
28 Sep 99 | Africa
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