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13 September, 2011
Minister Grant announces recommendations following WCED investigation into the Rheenendal Bus Accident
Statement by Minister Donald Grant, Minister of Education, Western Cape
On 24 August 2011, fourteen learners and a bus driver drowned after the bus in which they were being transported left the road and subsequently submerged in a river in Rheenendal just outside Knysna. 43 learners survived the accident.
The bus - operated by JBS Transport CC t/a African Express ("JBS Transport") - was contracted by the Western Cape Education Department ("WCED") to transport 65 learners in the area as part of the WCED learner transport scheme.
Two investigations into the cause of the accident were initiated by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works and SAPS. The results of these investigations are yet to be released.As details emerged following the accident, it became apparent to the WCED that certain terms and conditions of the service level agreement entered into between the WCED and JBS Transport (the "SLA") may not have been honoured.
Immediately following the accident, I instructed the WCED to conduct an investigation into the following:
The WCED investigation did not focus on the possible causes or the precise sequence of the events at the scene of the accident. Understanding the causes and the sequence of events of the accident requires technical findings currently being considered as part of the investigations of other agencies, including the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works and SAPS. Similarly, all aspects concerning the roadworthiness of the relevant vehicles and the compliance of JBS Transport and the relevant vehicle testing centres with applicable transport-related legislation and regulations are currently being conducted by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works and, as such, have not been investigated by the WCED.
The following findings of the WCED were made after a full review of:
After considering all information and documentation concerning the Rheenendal bus accident provided to and collected by the WCED, the WCED concluded that JBS Transport may have acted in breach of the SLA in that:
In addition, the WCED identified shortcomings in the monitoring and control of the learner transport service provided along the approved route in question. Following the investigation by the WCED, a number of apparent shortcomings have been identified concerning:
Final Recommendations of and Actions Taken by the WCED:
Following the completion of the WCED investigation, I have been provided with sufficient information to endorse the recommendations made to me by the WCED. The following recommendations were made to me and are currently being implemented with my approval by the WCED:
The WCED transports over 48 000 learners every day as part of its learner transport scheme and we are committed to identifying and developing ways of improving the safety of the WCED learner transport system.
The WCED requires the commitment and co-operation of a number of parties in this regard, including the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, the Western Cape Department of Community Safety, and SAPS.
The events of 24 August 2011 will not be forgotten. I salute those brave men, women and learners who assisted with the rescue operation and I am grateful that no more lives were lost. I am also thankful to those citizens, businesses and organisations that have provided their support to the survivors, their families, and the broader Rheenendal Primary School community.
As we remember those lost in the Rheenendal bus tragedy, I am compelled and committed to do what is necessary to improve the safety of the WCED learner transport system so that all learners have secure access to education. We will also continue to do what is necessary and possible to support the community of Rheenendal.
For enquiries, contact Bronagh Casey: 072 724 1422 or email@example.com.
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