‘We are devastated our girl is no longer with us’

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Barbara Maregele

DEVASTATED parents of three Mitchells Plain matric candidates killed in a car accident tried to console each other after identifying the bodies of their children yesterday.

At 6am on Saturday, Mondale High School matric candidates Kelly Ford, Leigh-Anne Swail and Keenan Smith, all 18, died when the car in which they were travelling collided with a Golden Arrow bus in Spine Road, Strandfontein.

The driver of the car and only survivor, Nazan Klaasen, is recovering in Groote Schuur Hospital and is expected to have surgery.

Groote Schuur Hospital spokesman Alaric Jacobs said Klaasen was conscious and in a stable condition.

“He should be discharged this week,” he said.

“I’m waiting for you,” were the last words Ford’s mother, Patricia Ford, said to her daughter early on Saturday.

“She asked me if she could go out to celebrate the end of the exams, so I agreed. She phoned me between 5.30am and 5.45am to let me know that they were on their way back.

“A while later, Leigh-Anne’s grandmother phoned me to tell me that she thinks the girls were involved in an accident. I didn’t want to wait for any more calls. I just went to the accident to see for myself.”

Ford said she became hysterical at the scene and was not allowed to see her daughter.

“When I saw the mortuary van arrive I lost it.

“The entire family is not handling it well, especially her three older brothers.

“She was meant to come home with another friend. Her boyfriend, Eugene Pieterse, was blaming himself because he didn’t go with them.”

Ford said she would be taking care of Kelly’s 22-month-old son, Alex, with the help of Pieterse’s parents.

“We were very close and spoke about everything. Alex was Kelly’s life. Two months ago she tattooed his name on her foot. Usually he asks for her, but he hasn’t said anything.”

Swail’s mother, Samantha Swail, also joined friends and family members at Ford’s home late yesterday.

While Swail was tearful and too distraught to talk to the media, Leigh-Anne’s grandmother, Freda Swail, said that the family were in a state of disbelief.

“Leigh-Anne was the only child and we can’t accept it. We are devastated that she won’t be with us any more,” she said.

About 100 of Mondale’s 213 matric candidates gathered in the school hall to discuss the accident with counsellors yesterday, less than 24 hours before their final matric exam today.

Principal Owen Bridgens said the matrics would write their final exam as expected.

“It was a tragic accident and everyone is affected, including the staff,” he said.

“It was important for the pupils to discuss their emotions in order to complete their exams.

“We have involved the Department of Education, trauma councillors and pastors from the area to talk to the children about how to deal with the death of their classmates.”

Bridgens said the school would hold a memorial service in the school hall in Portlands at 10am on Wednesday.

Police and Golden Arrow Bus Services officials are investigating the accident.

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