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
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that one of their clan, Raymond Krige, was awarded the Wolraad Woltemade decoration for bravery, but that the award was withdrawn when he disappeared.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