Vanderbijlpark school tragedy: ‘He was a beautiful child of God’ – family member of child who died
A family member has described one of the children who died at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark on Friday as “beautiful child of God”, reports Netwerk24.
Roydon Olckers, 17, was the school’s star athlete. He was among the three pupils who died when a concrete slab above a walkway bridging two buildings at the school collapsed on Friday morning. Family member Nicky Snyman broke the news of Roydon’s death to his mother Sharlene.
Jan Toerien, a teacher at the school, told Netwerk24 that Olckers’ had to be identified by his huge calf muscles.
Snyman said Olcker’s father Donovan and his mother were devastated at the loss of their eldest child. They have two other children.
Following the tragedy, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi shut down the school with immediate effect to allow police to conduct investigations, News24 reported.
“Two of the deceased learners were males and one was a girl. So far, one child has been identified. We are locating families of the two deceased learners to notify them about the tragedy. Two of 23 affected learners were handed over to their parents. The rest were rushed to hospital.”
Calls for help
An employee who saw the tragedy unfold told News24 that she could hear children calling for help under the rubble after the accident.
“Their screams are still lingering in my mind. They cried, pleading for help. Oh, my children were fighting for their lives! There was nothing I could do. But I am glad and appreciate those men who responded quickly and saved the lives of some of the children. I am hurting inside and don’t know what to say anymore,” she said.
Many children, still in school uniform, went to a nearby church, wearing arm bands to remember those who had died in the tragedy, Netwerk reported.
In a statement issued on Friday, government said it sent its heartfelt condolences and message of sympathy to families of the children who died at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark.
“It is sad and tragic that children had to die in this manner in a school environment. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this tragic incident. The provincial Department of Education is providing much-needed support to the school as well as the injured learners,” GCIS acting CEO Phumla Williams said.
Williams also wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Condolences from political parties
Several political parties have also expressed their condolences to those who lost loved ones.
“As a parent, the greatest fear is the idea of burying your children. This reality has befallen the families of the young lives lost in this incident. Together we mourn as a province and nation, and pledge our support to the parents and guardians,” DA Gauteng premier candidate Solly Msimanga said in a statement.
Msimanga said he would visit the school on Monday.
“We call on the Gauteng Department of Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi to investigate the cause of the accident and to ensure the safety of the learners and teachers in this school,’ he added.
Gauteng EFF chairperson Mandisa Mashego made a similar plea.
“We call on Panyaza Lesufi to prioritise the safety of our children at schools, through establishing a team of structural engineers that will assess and give regular reports on the quality of structures at schools,” she said.
Mashego said the EFF’s thoughts were with those who had lost loved ones, as well as learners and classmates.
“To the parents of the deceased, we are deeply saddened by the loss that you and your family have encountered. Our hearts go out to you during this trying time and may our prayers serve as comfort to you and your loved ones,” she said.