"IT is a miracle. God was protecting my baby.” These were the words of a distraught but relieved Eastern Cape mother whose three- year-old daughter survived the horrific bus crash outside Cradock at the weekend.
While at least 17 people died in the carnage, little Imanye Shushu escaped with minor head injuries.
She is receiving treatment at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth.
Imanye was one of just seven people in the 22-seater minibus who survived the crash.
Another three passengers were left in a critical condition as a result of the head-on collision in which a school bus and minibus taxi collided on the R61 between Cradock and Graaff- Reinet on Saturday morning.
Two occupants of the school bus died on impact.
Imanye and her two cousins, Siyasanga Shushu, 14, and Yolanda Shushu, 10, survived the accident.
"Grown men passed away here today. It was obviously not in God’s plan for our babies to be taken from us,” Imanye’s emotional mother, Nozuko Manjati, said.
The three girls had been travelling from Cape Town to Mthatha.
It is believed the minibus overtook another vehicle on a rise and smashed into the oncoming 60-seater school bus.
At least 15 people in the taxi, including the driver, died.
But the three young cousins, who all sustained neck and head fractures, miraculously survived the crash.
Their mothers – who are sisters – arrived at Livingstone Hospital late on Saturday night to comfort the distraught young girls.
Little Imanye, wearing a bloodied pink jersey, lay sleeping while her mother prayed over her. A drip was attached to her tiny hand.
Siyasanga’s mother, Bongiswa Shushu, said she and her sisters had travelled from Mthatha, where they live, to Cradock, after they were informed of the accident.
She said a paramedic had contacted her from her daughter’s cellphone informing her of the incident. "I just kept asking if the three girls were alive,” she said through tears.
She said they had arrived in Cradock on Saturday afternoon, only to be told their daughters had been taken to Port Elizabeth.
"We rushed here immediately. It has been a tiring, emotional day,” she said.
She said the youngsters had spent the school holidays with a family member in Cape Town and were on their way back to Mthatha on Saturday morning.
The two older girls attend school at Baziya Primary School in Transkei.
While the majority of the passengers in the taxi were flung from the vehicle, the young girls, who were seated near the back, had managed to remain in their seats.
Yolanda’s face was cut open by shards of glass and she may have to undergo a further eye operation.