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 newspaper scans of interviews with heroes, and there are also a few moving mp3 podcasts of interviews with survivors by Solidariteit Radio.

Awards for Bravery – The Heroes

The Wolraad Decoration for Bravery (Gold and Silver) were awarded in the wake of the Westdene Bus Disaster.

Sources include newspaper clippings at the time as well as Wikipedia entries for both the Gold and Silver awards.

Woltemade Cross for Bravery, Gold

  • Koen, Petrus Lucas received the Wolraad Woltemade award posthumously. The 17-year-old drowned after rescuing his cousin and five fellow school pupils.

  • Du Toit, Daniel Sarel, aged 14, dived back into the water three times and saved three lives.

  • Mahner, Alfred who drove to the site, jumped into the water and helped several children to safety and assisted the fire brigade to attach cables to the bus.

  • Opperman, Gotlieb Rudolf, aged 15, was rescued in an unconscious condition from the bus after jumping back into the water three times to rescue children.

  • Scheepers, Petrus Johannes Joubert helped children struggling to stay above the water to get onto the roof of the bus. He then swam into the bus and helped a girl to the surface. He returned twice to look for more children and later nearly lost consciousness and had to be helped out of the water by a bystander.

Woltemade Decoration for Bravery, Silver

  • Alexander, William Robert – rescued children
  • Botha, Johannes Jurgens – rescued children
  • Bouwer, Izak Zierk – rescued children
  • Brodie, James McKenzie – rescued children
  • De Kooker, Bernadus Theodorus (aged 17) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Gordon, John James (aged 15) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Jansen van Nieuwenhuizen, Ockert Machiel – rescued children
  • Lourens, Dirk Johannes – rescued children
  • Nell, Kenneth Roy – rescued children
  • Roelofse, Adriaan Christiaan – rescued children
  • Schuman, Lucas – rescued children
  • Steyn, Petrus Jacobus – rescued children
  • Swanepoel, Christiaan Jacobus – rescued children
  • Van Aswegen, Willem Herklaas (aged 14) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Van der Walt, Gert Albertus – rescued children
  • Van Deventer, Catrina Jacoba (aged 17) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Van Lelyveld, Martin Ernest (aged 17) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Van Wyk, Stephanus Johannes (aged 17) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Viljoen, Coenraad Rudolf (aged 15) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Waldeck, Petrus Gerhardus (aged 14) – rescued fellow pupils
  • Wehmeyer, Matthys Louis (aged 17) – rescued fellow pupils

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.

Raymond Krige was awarded the Wolraad Woltemade decoration for bravery

20 Comments

  1. Ed Alexander

    Good day,
    I note that some of the awardees are not stated on this site.
    My brother W R Alexander (William) whose house backed onto the dam was also awarded a silver decoration.
    I still have the news paper cutting.
    Thanks
    E R Alexander

    Reply
    • Hennie Botha

      Hi Ed. Thank you for your message and for sending the newspaper cutting. I have made some updates to the page.

      Reply
  2. Melissa

    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…

    Reply
  3. Marinda Naude

    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.

    Reply
    • Elize Venter

      Dankie Marinda vir die blommetjies.

      Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
    • Elize Venter

      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.

      Regards

      Elize

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
    • Eloise Fourie

      Hi was Ronel’s mom’s name perhaps Marie? If it is you will be able to get hold of Ronel through her mom. You can what’s app me on 072-775-1179 Eloise

      Reply
  5. Sabrina Golin

    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

    Reply
  6. Mark

    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.

    Reply
  7. Norman Clubb

    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.

    Reply
  8. Bianca Moll

    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

    Reply
  9. Hannelie Koen

    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

    Reply
  10. kim Andrews

    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.

    Reply
  11. Magriet Botha

    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.

    Reply
  12. 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.

    Reply
  13. seipati tenyane

    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

    Reply
    • Sarie

      Leave them in peace!

      Reply
      • Karen Mccaffrey

        I was 11 yrs old when I remember the horror of this on the news, I Iived in Elsburg in Germiston at the time. I felt sick to the stomach at the loss of so many young people in such a horrendous way, I’m now nearly 48 yrs old and it still haunts me. God bless all the families who have suffered.

        Reply

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