The Survivors

The Survivors

This site is dedicated to the 42 children who lost their lives on this tragic day, the men, women and children who worked frantically to save every possible life and also the family and friends who lost loved ones.

If you were close to someone, or were family of anyone who died in the Westdene Bus Disaster, you would probably regard yourself as much a survivor as the actual survivors who escaped from the bus with their lives.

The disaster was very traumatic for everyone involved, directly and indirectly. There are some survivors who still refuse to talk about that dreadful day. There are also reports of suicides in the months and years following the tragedy.

On this page I have included the names of  some of the heroes of the Westdene Bus Disaster. There are undoubtedly dozens of individuals who went above and beyond the call of duty on that day, most of whom will never be known or thanked. I have included some mediocre newspaper scans of interviews with heroes, and there are also a few really moving mp3 podcasts of interviews with survivors by Solidariteit Radio.

Awards for Bravery – The Heroes

The Wolraad Woltemade and Dirkie Uys awards are awarded in South Africa for bravery. My research has revealed some conflicting reports on who received rewards, and exactly which rewards they received. For the time being I will only list the names of those I believe received rewards. Awards for bravery were given to the following children for rescuing their schoolmates:

  • Pieter Koen received the Wolraad Woltemade award posthumously
  • Danie Theron also received the Wolraad Woltemade award – 4 years after the disaster he took his own life
  • Willem van Aswegen
  • Theo de Koker
  • Coenraad Viljoen
  • John Gordon
  • Martin van Lelyveld
  • Petrus van Heerden
  • Matthys Wehmeyer
  • Daniel du Toit
  • Gerhard Waldeck
  • Rudi Opperman
  • Reinette van Deventer
Raymond Krige

A reward from bravery could not be awarded to Raymond Krige when he disappeared

Award Withdrawn

As with everything in life, there is always a twist. I came across an interesting (unconfirmed) piece of information. It is mentioned on the Krige family website that one of their clan, Raymond Krige, was awarded the Wolraad Woltemade decoration for bravery, but that the award was withdrawn when he disappeared.

Interviews with Heroes

I included a few scanned articles of interviews that appeared after the disaster. My apologies for the quality. Somewhere someone out there can get us better quality scans, I’m sure:

Huisgenoot – 11 April 1985
Article about Pieter Koen entitled Geen Groter Liefde… om jou lewe te gee vir ander

Huisgenoot – 11 April 1985
Interview with Izak Bouwer who rescued children from the bus – entitled Stille helde van die busramp… ‘n nabetragting

Beeld – 23 July 1985
Interview with Willem van Aswegen and other heroes of the Disaster following a ceremony where 7 school children received awards for bravery – entitled Dapper kinders van ramp is beskeie helde

Interviews with Survivors

The following four interviews are published here with thanks to Solidariteit Radio. The mp3 podcasts were originally published on a well written and interesting article which can be read here:

[mp3t track=”Melinda Janse van Rensburg@wp-content/uploads/mp3/melinda-janse-van-rensburg2-2010-07-22.mp3″ caption=”Haar beste vriendin, Belinda, was op die bus” ind=”n” vol=”75″ bold=”n”]

[mp3t track=”Adrie Smit@wp-content/uploads/mp3/adrie-smit2-2010-07-22.mp3″ caption=”Adrie Smit se sussie is in die busramp oorlede” ind=”n” vol=”75″ bold=”n”]

[mp3t track=”Neels Els@wp-content/uploads/mp3/neels-els2-2010-07-22.mp3″ caption=”Neels Els se treffende verhaal.” ind=”n” vol=”75″ bold=”n”]

[mp3t track=”Des van der Merwe@wp-content/uploads/mp3/des-vd-merwe2-2010-07-22.mp3″ caption=”Des het die bus verpas.” ind=”n” vol=”75″ bold=”n”]

6 Comments

  1. Ek was slegs 3 jaar oud toe hierdie tragedie plaasgevind het. Vanaand moet ek vir my seun (9) n toespraak skryf oor n ramp. Ek het vanaand eers geleer van die hartverskeurende tragedie van die 42 kinders wat hulle jong mooi lewens verloor het. Ek sit verslae oor die verhaal en kan nie my pen optel nie. My hart gaan uit na die gesinne en families wat hulle geliefde kinders aan die dood moes afstaan. Ek dank ons Hemelse Vader vir my twee kindertjies en vir die feit dat hulle snoesig slapies en veilig by my is. Ek kan nie besluit of ek my seuntjie daaroor kan laat praat nie. Maar wanneer ek wel so besluit, sal dit eerder n huldebleik wees as n toespraak. Seen en liefde aan elke persoon wat herinneringe aan die gebeurtenis saamdra

  2. I was near this tradegy when it happend. I was manning a stand in a shopping centre. The shock of this event was enormous, and even though it is more than 28 years since I left South Africa to return to England, this event is still etched in my mind.
    I lived in South Africa from 1970 to 1986.

  3. Dit was een van die hartseerste dae.Toe ek hoor die bus is in die dam in, ek weet my broer se dogters moes op die bus gewees het. Maar hulle het die bus verpas. Sterkte aan die ouers wat kinders verloor het. En dankie aan die Hero’s wat God die dag op die se pad gesit het wat gered is.

  4. Chris van der Walt

    Ek is 1958 uit die skool en ek vermoed die kinders se ouers was saam met my op skool. Graag wil ek my meegevoel betuig met die ouers en kinders wat oorleef het.

  5. To whom this may concern

    I hope this email finds you well.

    My name is Seipati Tenyane and I am a producer on a mid morning show called Talk SA. This is a travelling talkshow that seeks to speak to South Africans of all kinds about the issues that affect us the most as a people. We talk about all sorts of issues from the social to the political to cultural etc.

    Our show is Hosted by Rian Vismaan and Ayanda Mpama. Talk SA plays every Tuesday morning at 11h30 on SABC 2.

    At the moment I am trying to put together an episode for a show that I am working on. I am looking to interview one or two f the survivors of the tragic incident. Is there anyone from the organisation who would be interested in sharing their testimony with me?

    I am not trying to do an expose of any sort. My show is based on trying to make or find resolutions. If anyone is interested in shooting with me. Please do not hesitate to let me know. I can explain all in fine detail.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Peace and blessings
    Seipati Tenyane
    Talk SA
    Welela Studios
    seipatitenyane@gmail.com
    seipati@welela.tv
    011 726 2522
    079 956 3013

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