The lit­tle hero of Wil­low­vale

Kamva Ntasa (8) freed him­self from a man­gled bus to find help for other sur­vivors af­ter a hor­ror ac­ci­dent in the Eastern Cape

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

An eight-year-old boy has emerged as the hero of last week­end’s Eastern Cape bus crash in which 35 peo­ple died. Had it not been for lit­tle Kamva Nt­sasa, who pulled him­self out of the wreck­age and climbed out of the val­ley in search of pass­ing cars, there could have been even fewer than nine sur­vivors. Kamva was on his way to But­ter­worth for a shop­ping trip with his aunt and cousins when the Africa’s Best 350 bus they were trav­el­ling in veered off the road and plunged into a river bed af­ter its brakes failed.

His aunt Nosicelo (36), and cousins Bahle (13) and Lilitha (6), died in the crash.

Kamva spoke to City Press at his home in Lower Gwathu shortly af­ter he was dis­charged from the Frere Hos­pi­tal in East Lon­don on Thurs­day. He told of his ex­cite­ment be­fore the bus ride be­cause his Makazi had promised him and his cousins a treat and a feast, as it had been a long time since she had spoilt them.

“She had promised to buy us nice things – clothes and lots of food. It was sup­posed to have been a good Satur­day out­ing to town. We rarely go to town and were ex­cited. At the bus stop, we were play­ing along with my cousins and shar­ing jokes, wait­ing for the bus. We were look­ing for­ward to go­ing to town,” said the boy, whose cuts on his fore­head were start­ing to heal. He had ban­dages on both knees.

Kamva, whose fa­ther is a mine worker, lives with his mother near Nqabara, 25km from Wil­low­vale and 47km from But­ter­worth. He had begged his aunt not to take the bus be­cause he knew they had a bad rep­u­ta­tion.

“I told Makazi that we should not take a bus be­cause they al­ways crash and that a bakkie was bet­ter be­cause they are faster and have fewer ac­ci­dents. But my aunt in­sisted we take the bus,” he ex­plained.

On the bus, Kamva no­ticed the driver was speed­ing, but he and his cousins con­tin­ued to play, as­sum­ing it was nor­mal.

As the bus ap­proached a steep val­ley af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing a num­ber of sharp curves, pas­sen­gers be­gan shout­ing and had se­ri­ous looks on their faces. He did not un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing at first, but then his aunt grabbed him and his cousins, and started pray­ing.

“The bus now was go­ing at even higher speed. Peo­ple were scream­ing. At one mo­ment, I saw the bus fly­ing and heard a big bang­ing sound. The bus had crashed and we were in a river. Bahle, my cousin, landed on top of me and the bus was on its side.

“I told Bahle to move away from me, but he was not re­spond­ing. He did not move. I pushed him aside,” he said.

Kamva then pulled him­self out of the wreck­age. Nei­ther his younger cousin, the lit­tle girl Lilitha, nor his aunt moved or re­sponded to his cries for them to wake up. Both his legs hurt, but he gath­ered his strength and started look­ing for a phone so that he could call his mother.

He found one in the pocket of a man who was ly­ing mo­tion­less. He picked up a rock and broke one of the win­dows, and climbed on top of the bus, which was ly­ing on its side.

There, he found a spot where there was enough sig­nal for him to make a call. But when he tried to phone his mum, No­luthando, the phone had no air­time. So he sent a please call me.

“For­tu­nately, my mother called me back im­me­di­ately, and I told her it was me, the bus had crashed and we needed help,” he said.

While wait­ing for his mother, he climbed out of the steep river bank, ob­scured from pass­ing cars by dense bush.

At the road, he flagged down a car and told the driver, a young man, about the crash, and then po­lice and am­bu­lances were called to the scene.

Kamva was taken to Frere Hos­pi­tal, where he was treated for se­verely bruised knees.

Pro­vin­cial Ar­rive Alive spokesper­son Tshepo Machaea said 44 pas­sen­gers had been on the 60-seater bus. Of those, 34 died on the scene, and one later in hos­pi­tal. Among the dead were four chil­dren, 16 men and 19 women. Four sur­vivors were still in hos­pi­tal.

Kamva, who wants to be a teacher one day, says it will take a long time be­fore he gets on to a bus again. “I have never liked buses, and af­ter what hap­pened last Satur­day, I don’t think I want to ride one any­time soon,” he said.

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