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'I will never forget what I saw': Welkom crash survivor recalls horrific scenes

27 May 2019 - 10:57 By Iavan Pijoos
The Intercape bus that overturned a week ago near Welkom on route from Durban to Upington. Nine people died, including the driver.
The Intercape bus that overturned a week ago near Welkom on route from Durban to Upington. Nine people died, including the driver.
Image: Supplied

A survivor of the fatal Welkom bus crash has described how she grabbed the seat in front of her and held on for dear life moments before the bus overturned.

The Intercape bus overturned seven days ago near Welkom in the Free State, en route from Durban to Upington via Bloemfontein.

There were 55 people travelling on the bus, including two drivers.

Seven people were confirmed dead on the scene, while one child died later in hospital. The driver was found later hanging from a tree in an apparent suicide.

One of the survivors, Cian Cordiglia, said she is mourning the loss of children and wishes she could have done more to help on the day of the fatal crash.

"I had fallen asleep on the bus, assuming I'd wake up safely in Bloemfontein at 6am," she said.

Cordiglia, 23, told TimesLIVE that she was woken up from the screams of other passengers moments before the bus turned on his side. She grabbed on to the seat in front of her and "hung on for dear life".

"With the bus on its side and people trapped underneath it, we tried to exit while avoiding stepping on those trapped underneath us. Beneath me was a woman with her head wedged underneath a seat and blood oozing from her mouth. I froze in shock," she said.

She said another passenger helped by directing them off the bus while urging them to remain calm.

Cordiglia said those who were able to walk escaped through the roof of the bus.

"My first reaction was to feel if I still had all of my limbs. Seeing those mangled remains around me made me think I must have been injured or be bleeding somewhere. Thank God I am OK," she said.

"I didn't even know which town we were in or what had happened. All I could see were bodies underneath the bus. I could hear the screams from a mother discovering her dead infant."

She said she phoned her boyfriend Heiko and asked for an emergency number before going back to the bus to help the injured passengers.

"I got to the roof of the bus and froze: legs of a dead small child lying out from underneath the bus; blood trailing down the tar road; remains of a mangled dead baby outside the bus. No sign of life. No sign of hope.

"I couldn't stomach it. I struggled to breathe and decided to walk as far away from there as I could. I will never forget what I saw. I will never forgive myself for not helping more," she said.

The religious woman is still struggling to come to terms with what happened. "I can't question God - I know that if it is his will for so many people to die, then who am I to dispute his decision? I just have so much anger at all of this.

"I thank God and the people who helped us through that morning. I am scared and traumatised, but I am alive. Thank God I am alive."

Intercape said the bus was in a roadworthy condition and a full test had been done two weeks before the crash.

"After the accident, the coach was assessed by authorities at the Welkom test centre and released to Intercape without any reservation," said the company.