26 November 2012
The final matric paper will not be a joyous occasion for matric pupils at Mondale High in Mitchells Plain. On Sunday, many of them broke down in tears as they mourned the deaths of three fellow pupils in a horror smash early on Saturday.
Kelly Ford, Leigh-Ann Swail and Keenan Smith, all 18, died in the collision, while 20-year-old former Mondale High pupil Nazan Klaasen, 20, is fighting for his life at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Shortly before 6am on Saturday, Ford phoned her mother to say that she was on her way home from a night out on the town. Minutes later, the Toyota Corolla Smith was driving collided with a Golden Arrow bus.
The crash took place on the corner of Spine Road and Church Way, Strandfontein, and the Jaws of Life was used to free the four.
Ford and Smith died on the scene while Swail died at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Ford’s mother, Patricia, said that Ford and Swail were best friends and had been inseparable since Grade 8. She said Ford had lived for her 22-month-old son Alex. “She hardly went out, she was always at home, Alex was her life.”
Ford said that when her daughter called her she had said to her, “okay, I’m waiting for you”.
News of the crash spread like wildfire on social networks and more than 1 000 people assembled at the school on Sunday evening to hold a candlelight vigil.
Principal Owen Bridgens said the three had been athletes and were well liked by their peers.
He said that messages of condolence had been received from from all over, including calls from Education MEC Donald Grant, Minister of National Planning Trevor Manuel and ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman.
On Sunday, the school assembled most of its matrics to offer them grief counselling ahead of their final paper to be written on Monday afternoon.
When the Cape Argus arrived at the Ford home in Portland on Sunday, Swail’s mother, Samantha, was there, but she was too overcome with grief to talk about her only child.
Her sister, Marci Lodewyk, described her niece as a wonderful young woman, who loved life, modelling, clothes and shoes.
Swail was planning to do an au pair course next year, or “something in management”, she said.
Leigh-Ann’s grandmother, Freda Swail, said her daughter had been at Leigh-Ann’s side when she had died.
According to Ford, Kelly was going to go home from a club in the CBD with another friend, but then Leigh-Ann had suggested she stay on at the club.
Ford’s heartbroken boyfriend Eugene Pieterse said he was still coming to terms with her death. “It is just so unreal,” Pieterse said.
Smith’s friends described him as having a great sense of humour. He was planning to study a human resources course next year.
On Sunday, his tearful classmates clutched photographs of him.
Speaking to the gathered matriculants on Sunday, vice-principal Nigel Crowie said it was the saddest day in the history of the school, but he added that the matrics now had to concentrate on getting through their final exam paper.
Crowie said the deaths resounded across the province and would impact on how matriculants celebrated the end of their school careers.
Bridgens said it was not good to see young people die. “The school won’t ever forget this,” he said.
Errol van Wyk, the education district director, said that while teachers were good at preparing children academically, they felt powerless to fix the after-effects of a tragedy.
Police spokesman FC Van Wyk said police were investigating a case of culpable homicide.
A memorial would be held at the Mondale High School hall on Wednesday at 10am.
[ Storu by Lynnette Johns appeared in Cape Argus]