Twelve Children Killed In Johannesburg School Minibus Fire

Screenshot of a video from the accident scene.

Twelve children were killed on Wednesday when a minibus carrying them to school near Johannesburg crashed and caught fire after colliding with another vehicle, according to police.

The minibus driver was also slain, and seven other children were taken to the hospital, according to officials in Johannesburg’s Gauteng region.

According to television photos, the minibus was destroyed by fire after the early morning crash near Merafong, which is more than 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of the city.

Police investigated the area, finding charred schoolbook pages on the tarmac.

“A private scholar transport minibus was involved in a tragic accident in the Kokosi-Wedela area in Merafong, claiming the lives of the 12 learners and their driver,” the Gauteng government said in a statement.

It could not immediately give the ages of the children but said most were from a primary school, where students are normally aged between six and 13.

“They were burnt beyond recognition. When this happens forensics will have to do their part in terms of identification,” Gauteng traffic police department spokesman Sello Maremane told AFP.

Police were investigating what happened but it appeared that the minibus was struck from behind by a small pick-up truck, causing it to overturn and catch fire, authorities said.

The driver of the pick-up was also in hospital, reports said. By late afternoon, most of the children in hospital had been released, reports said.

“I am profoundly saddened by this tragic event,” Gauteng education minister Matome Chiloane said.

South Africa has one of the most developed road networks on the continent but also has one of the worst road safety records, in part due to reckless driving and unroadworthy vehicles.

“I have always said to parents we need to check the condition of the vehicles that we put our kids in,” Chiloane said at the scene of the crash.

Many South African parents have to rely on private minibuses to get their children to school.

“This tragedy, which regretfully is not the first of its kind to confront us, demands that we exercise our obligation to protect our children with the utmost care,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said, offering his condolences.

45 people were killed in South Africa’s worst road disaster this year when their bus plunged off a bridge into a ravine in March, on their way to a religious gathering.

The bus was traveling from neighboring Botswana to Moria, where an Easter pilgrimage and ceremony has drawn over a million believers in recent years.

In February, at least nine African National Congress supporters were murdered in a bus crash on their way home after an electoral rally in the country’s east.

In May, 13 persons were killed in a head-on collision between a minibus taxi and a truck on a major route in the northern province of Limpopo.

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