A school bus full of students swerved off a steep road in Tanzania on Saturday morning and fell into a ravine, killing 36 people — 33 of them children, authorities said.
The fatal crash happened in city of Arusha in Tanzania’s northern Karatu District, on the edge of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The place where it happened is a hill, with a steep slope, and it was raining when the accident happened, Aruba Police Commander Charles Mkumbo said.
Mkumbo added investigators were still trying to determine exactly what caused the bus to leave the road. We don’t know if the driver was new or if there was a mechanical defect, he said.
The bus driver and two teachers on board were also killed in the crash. Two of the students survived but were critically injured.
The primary school students, aged between 12 and 13 years old, were on their way to another school to take an exam.
The children are from St. Lucky Vincent private school located at Kwa Mrombo suburb of Arusha city and were travelling to Karatu to do a joint mock examination with a partner school, Tumaini.
Reports stated that the bus skidded off the road and plunged into the gorge at Marera in Rhotia area, a few kilometres before Karatu town on the Arusha road.
Bodies of the deceased were taken to the city mortuary in Arusha late Saturday. Survivors were also taken to hospitals in Arusha.
It is common for schools in Arusha to travel and Karatu as well as the Ngorongoro Crater and the nearby national parks for study tours.
"It's a huge tragedy," said Innocent Mushi, the school's director.
"Preliminary investigations show that the accident is due to speeding," regional police chief Charles Mkumbo told the state-run Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation late on Saturday.
Some reports said the people on the bus were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.
The accident happened early on Saturday when the bus went off the road and into the Marera river gorge in Karatu district, near the northern city of Arusha, where the children were attending Lucky Vincent Primary School.
The final-year pupils were on their way to sit mock examinations ahead of seeking places at secondary schools.
President John Magufuli sent his condolences to the families of the dead.
"This accident extinguishes the dreams of these children who were preparing to serve the nation, it is an immense pain for the families involved and for the whole nation," Magufuli said in a statement.
Speeding is the cause of most road accidents in Tanzania, according police statistics that show around 3,000 people killed each year.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli expressed “great shock and sadness” over the crash.
The accident has cut short the dreams of students who were preparing to serve the nation, Magufuli said.
More than 3,000 people are killed each year on Tanzania’s roads, according to government data.