Grief as 33 pupils perish in a grisly road accident in Karatu

Rescuers prepare to remove the wreckage of the school minibus from the gorge in which it had plunged after the driver lost control on Rhotia Hills near Karatu town yesterday. PHOTO |FILBERT RWEYEMAMU

What you need to know:

  • Armed police were called in to control multitudes of people who thronged the area after news spread like wildfire on the tragedy which has left Arusha and the entire nation mourning.

Arusha. Women wailed uncontrollably yesterday as scores of people stormed St Lucky Vincent School for updates on the tragic death of its 33 pupils, two teachers and a driver earlier in the day.

Armed police were called in to control multitudes of people who thronged the area after news spread like wildfire on the tragedy which has left Arusha and the entire nation mourning.

More women sobbed and collapsed, as bodies of the young learners were brought to the Arusha city mortuary in the evening.

The bodies have been brought for detailed identification because they were crashed beyond easy recognition in the 9am crash when the school bus they were travelling in swerved off the road and plunged into a gorge at Rhotia Hills, a few kilometres from Karatu town.

Immediately after the crash, parents, relatives and neighbours to the school located at Kwa Mrombo on the suburbs of Arusha, thronged the area as a sombre mood engulfed the education institution.

As the crowd surged, police had to be called in to ensure law and order but the situation became tense at mid-day as anxious parents wanted to know the fate of their loved ones.

But it downed on few others that, indeed, their children had perished in the accident which had left Arusha residents questioning on the safety of the school buses.

It was then that Arusha district commissioner Gabriel Daqqaro calmed them, saying the authorities would give a statement later in the day on the road tragedy.

He appealed for calm as the identification of the bodies was underway, saying the government was equally grieved by the death of the students and their teachers. For the parents and relatives who stormed the school, it was easier to learn if their loved ones had perished or not.

There were three school buses carrying 96 Standard VII pupils, each carrying slightly over 30 children. Only one of them -a Coaster with registration number T781 BYS - which was behind the convoy was involved in the crash.

As information was communicated on the names of those in the ill-fated bus, wails rented the air from those who feared their children had died and had to be carried away.

One of them, identified as Mama Arnold, collapsed, regretting that her kid had traveled in the ill-fated trip. Other shocked parents also wept for the fallen children.

The school manager, Mr Casmir Moshi, was apparently short of words but later recollected and managed to brief the media on what had happened.

He said the children left the school premises at around 7am aboard three buses and that they were headed to Tumaini Academy, a sister school in Karatu for mock examinations.

“They were to return this (yesterday) evening,” he said, adding that undertaking joint examinations was normal between the two schools.

According to him, it was the Coaster bus which was last in the convoy and which was involved in the accident. It was driven by Dismas Kessy, 28, who was among those who died.

According to Arusha regional police commander Charles Mkumbo, the accident may have been caused by a break failure.

Other reports had it that, the driver failed to control the vehicle over a corner as he descended the Rhotia Hills on the way to Karatu.

Latest figures by the RPC put the death figure at 32, with 29 being the school children, two teachers and the driver. It is said there were only three survivors who are in critical condition.

The sight of the accident was horrific as people pulled the bodies of the deceased out of the mangled bus. The gory photos went viral in the social media shortly afterwards.