THE devastated families of the young pupils killed in the horrific Rheenendal bus crash near Knysna more than a year ago were dealt a major blow in their quest to find answers as the inquest came to an abrupt halt yesterday.
The inquest was set to start in the Knysna Magistrate's Court but had to be postponed after a bus company representative showed up without a lawyer.
Fourteen children and the bus driver, Taan Colin Payle, 65, died when the African Express school bus plunged into the Kasatdrift River about 20km from Knysna in August 2011.
The lawyer representing the families of the young victims said the matter had been placed on the court roll in September last year.
"All parties involved, including the bus company, agreed on the date, but when proceedings started [yesterday] a representative from the bus company handed his phone to the prosecutor," the lawyer, Jerald Andrews, said.
"The person on the line was a lawyer who had only received instruction to represent the bus company last Friday and therefore did not have enough time to prepare and requested a postponement.
"The families are very upset about this, because [yesterday] was supposed to be the beginning of the end in a very tragic chapter in their lives.
"Now they will have to wait another month and a half before they can get answers as to what happened to their children."
The pupils died when the 32-seater bus – in which 56 children were crammed – crashed while transporting them to Rheenendal Primary School.
Andrews said he had opposed the postponement and asked for a cost order. "We had to fly in from Cape Town, enlist the services of a senior advocate and pay for accommodation for the week. However, the court postponed the matter because everyone is entitled to legal representation." He said depending on the outcome of the inquest, criminal or civil action could follow.