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Award Withdrawn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one of their clan, Raymond Krige, was awarded the Wolraad Woltemade decoration for bravery, but that the award was withdrawn when he disappeared.


  1. Both of my aunties were supposed to be on the bus, instead, they skipped the bus to smoke skelm on their way to their destinations. They always used to sit at the bottom of the bus and with God’s grace, they did not on that specific day even climb onto the bus… It is still to date, the most tragic topic of discussion. They had lost many friends in the tragedy, and a few years later my one aunt was killed in a car accident…

  2. Ek was 13jr oud toe my ouers my die aand van die tragedie vertel het. Ons het toe in Mayfair gewoon. Daardie aand het ons Westdene dam toe gegaan en op die grasperk gestaan en kyk hoe daar na die kinders gesoek word met flitse onder die water. Daar was skooltasse en ander besitings op die wal gesit wat gevind was. Ek ken niemand persoonlik wat iemand verloor het nie maar dis in my brein ingeets. Op Moedersdag 14 Mei 2017 het ek my ouers se grafte gaan besoek, daar het ek ook gedink dat die meisies al mammas/oumas sou gewees het. Ek het as huldeblyk vir hulle ook ‘n roos op elkeen se graf gesit.

  3. Lorra Erasmus (Raper)

    I am looking for Ronel Koen who was also on the bus during the accident her brother was Pieter Koen, she also had a brother Gerhard Koen, Ronel and Gerhard both worked for Transnet, (the SA Railway) I started working with Ronel but we lost contact as we were transferred to other departments and I recall she resigned. but I would love to see her again hoping that if she goes on this site she might see my message.

    • Hi Lorra,

      I will try to reach Ronel for you. Not sure if I will succeed, but just to let you know that I will try.



      • Coenie Pretorius

        Hi Elize,dis jare terug ek kan jou nie onthou maar probeer vas stel of ek jou ken,eks uit skool 84 toe army toe in 85.

  4. I was 15 that time and till now it is a memory that takes part of my Life, that year we left SA for good to go back to Italy and not long ago I searched for some info on the web with no results.We had a family friend who lost 2 kids in that accident, It was a tragedy a shock for everyone I never forget it. RIP

  5. Hi All, I was 15 years old at the time the tragedy took place and lived in Rondebult Germiston. Finding myself visiting this site, is never ending.
    I may not know the families of those who were touched directly and who lost loved ones, but every time I spill a tear, it is donated in prayer to those brave families, heroes and all who helped that fateful day.
    My thoughts and wishes are with you, then and now and forever.

  6. I just discovered this site. I was working in Johannesburg at the time and I was driving home from work to Albertville and the traffic was detoured away from the crash site. Two days later I had occasion to visit the depot of the city transport authority and there in the garage stood the bus. It was very sad to actually see where all those young people so tragically lost their lives. I’ve never forgotten it.

  7. Good Day,

    Michael Baretta was reported to have died but it turned out that he did not. He had a remarkable story to tell and how he either missed the bus/or something, but he could not board the bus and eventually started to walk home. The pain and lost was always part of him. I knew his family Baptiste and Sylvia Baretta and recently started to look for them. Any one that have information on Michael, I will really appreciate it.

    Regards Bianca

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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
    011 726 2522
    079 956 3013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.