ABOUT 75 people cheated death, in what a relieved passenger called a “beautiful Christmas miracle,” when the rear wheels of a bus they were travelling on came off near Halfway along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway yesterday.
The vehicle zigzagged off the road and landed on its side.
The Lacoste Express Bus was headed for Kariangwe in Binga from Bulawayo.
A Chronicle news crew arrived at the accident scene moments after the crash had occurred just after 1PM.
Passengers narrated the bizarre experience of seeing the bus’ wheels overtaking the vehicle on either side.
“God must have been watching over us because this could easily have been one of those national disasters that we often read about,” said a woman who only identified herself as Mrs Ncube.
She appeared dazed as she narrated how the bus suddenly veered off the road.
“For me, it’s a beautiful Christmas miracle. Some luggage may have been extensively damaged but we are all alive. That’s the important thing,” she said.
Passengers said they felt the bus bumping and saw two wheels speeding on either side of the vehicle.
“People didn’t panic and I think that’s what helped the driver to keep calm and control the bus,” said a passenger from Lupaka, Mr John Muzamba who complained of pain on both feet.
Ms Juliet Mugande, said she boarded the bus in Bulawayo enroute to her rural home in Mulindi, Binga from Harare.
“I felt the bus shaking and thought we were passing a grid. We then saw wheels rolling in front of the bus. I was facing death but I remained calm. I only feel pain on my arm and neck,” she said.
Mr Lawyer Munkombwe said the driver was not speeding when the accident occurred.
The news crew observed passengers removing luggage which included groceries and beer from the wreck.
Some were salvaging huge disco speakers, which they said they had organised for a Christmas bash.
A group of passengers was busy covering recovered luggage with a tent as they milled around figuring their next move, as it was about to rain.
The driver Mr Mgcini Sithole said he lost control of the bus after two rear wheels came off.
“I felt the load tilting to the right and suddenly the bus swerved three times to either side of the road. When I managed to control it, it was on the side of the road with the drum and spring buried deep into the ground,” he said.
Mr Sithole said he wrested the bus to a stop but it slowly toppled over.
“It fell to the right because of the load. Luckily there are no serious injuries and I administered first aid on one passenger who was complaining about pain on her legs. The bus was not overloaded as we had seated passengers only which means we had 75,” added Mr Sithole.
He said when he left Bulawayo after being called from his off day yesterday morning, there were no signs of a fault on the bus.
Passengers blamed the accident on negligence by the company but praised the driver for controlling the bus when death seemed imminent.
“We were supposed to leave at 7PM on Saturday but the driver said he was tired. We slept in the bus and in the morning he told his colleagues that the bus was not in good condition.
“After some minutes of arguing, another driver was called. We were taken to Emakhandeni where the owner stays and we spent more than 30 minutes there. People were angry and demanding a refund when we finally left around 9AM.” Chronicle