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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 14:09 GMT
Families mourn bus crash victims
Victoria, Nicola and Claire Pearce
Victoria, Nicola and Claire Pearce have been orphaned
The families of the victims of a minibus crash in South Africa in which eight British tourists died have spoken of their grief.

Roger and Linda Pearce, from Hertfordshire, left three daughters.

Mr Pearce's brother Geoffrey said the family was "shocked and distressed" by the deaths near the town of Bergville on Wednesday.

Police are investigating reports the bus driver swerved to avoid a man committing suicide.

British relatives of the dead have begun flying to the region.

Mr and Mrs Pearce's three daughters Claire, 23, Victoria, 25, and Nicola, 18, were being supported at home by their grandfather and uncle.

Roger and Linda Pearce
He's left three daughters and their grandpa absolutely distressed and distraught
Roger Pearce's brother

Mr Pearce was an eye surgeon who retired from Watford General Hospital in July and was holidaying in South Africa to celebrate his 60th birthday.

Geoffrey Pearce said: "It is tragic that it has ended in this way.

"He's left three daughters and their grandpa absolutely distressed and distraught by something that's happened so suddenly.

"They will all be sorely missed."

Tribute was also paid by friends of keen walker Thomas Harris, 65, from Blaenllechau, Ferndale, Rhondda.

Mr Harris worked for the Post Office from the age of 15 and was a keen Cardiff City fan.

Neighbour Rita Murphy said Mr Harris had gone on exotic holidays each Christmas after the death of his mother.

"He was such a lovely fellow, a gentleman who wouldn't hurt a fly. It has knocked us for six."

Doris Evans, who had lived next door to Mr Harris for more than 50 years, said: "He was a wonderful neighbour and a gentleman, and a lovely friend to us."

The tourists were on a walking safari tour.

Witnesses said a pedestrian apparently jumped in front of the vehicle they were in, causing it to swerve and overturn near Durban and plunge into a ditch.

Minibus
Six people are thought to have died at the scene and two later
South African police are investigating the incident and Captain Joshua Gwala said the man, identified as Pelepele Miya, may have had mental health problems.

Mr Miya, a South African, died at the scene.

Britain's Acting High Commissioner to South Africa Andy Sparkes has been to the scene of the crash and heard accounts from eye-witnesses.

Two other British tourists, a Canadian, the South African driver and a tour guide were also hurt in the accident.

The other victims were named as: Neil Pike, 35, and Christine Rowe, 30, a couple from Preston, Lancashire; retired couple, Stephen and Marion Moon from Maidstone, Kent; and Dr Anthony Egan from Surbiton, Surrey, 65.

Survivors

The two British survivors of the accident were Andrew Robertson, believed to be 58, and Sonia Willhoft, believed to be 61.

Ms Willhoft, of Surbiton, Surrey, was married to Dr Egan.

The minibus crashed on the R74 road between Harrismith and Bergville, in the Royal Natal National Park at around 1630 GMT, KwaZulu-Natal police said.

The British tourists were all travelling with tour operator Exodus Travel.

Managing director David Gillespie flew out to examine the crash site on Thursday.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Fergal Keane
"Speed may have been a contributory factor"



SEE ALSO:
Crash couple were to marry
02 Jan 04  |  Lancashire
Tourists die in SA bus crash
31 Oct 02  |  Africa
SA mourns bus crash victims
11 May 03  |  Africa
SA bus crash 'hero' hailed
02 May 03  |  Africa


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