ARUSHA - Authorities in Tanzania say they are cracking down on school bus safety following a recent deadly crash (May 6) that killed 35 people, nearly all of them schoolchildren. The tragedy has revived advocacy for stricter safety rules that will help prevent future accidents.
The skeleton of the lime green minibus lies in the Arusha traffic police yard. Its front wheels are twisted upwards showing the force of the accident's impact. Inside, the orange benches are contorted and crushed together.
The accident took the lives of 32 Tanzanian schoolchildren as well as their two teachers and the bus driver.
Arusha police hauled what remains of the school bus to their headquarters as part of an ongoing investigation. The school's owner was detained on Tuesday for questioning, but has since been released on bail.
Yusuph Ilembo, Arusha senior assistant commissioner of police, says precautions must be taken.
"They must have their buses good, well checked, with good tires. And also their drivers, they must make sure their drivers never drive the school buses when they are drunk and they will never drive their buses with excessive speed."
The students from Lucky Vincent Primary school in Arusha were on the way to a partner school outside the city. But they never made it.
Their bus plunged into a ravine. The force of the impact caused many of the seats to come undone and fly forward.
Ilembo says traffic police officers have been dispatched throughout the region to check that school buses are up to code and equipped with seatbelts.
Calls for stricter regulations
Some government opposition members believe bus operators need stricter routine regulation. Samson Mwigamba, a member of ACT Wazalendo, is one of them.
"The bus operators are aiming at maximizing profit and what they do is they just take the old buses which are actually so much prone to the accidents and they hire the not much qualified drivers."
Lucky Vincent is one of the top-rated elementary schools in the region. Its headmaster, Ephraim Jackson, told VOA students and teachers are still trying to grapple with what happened as families hold funerals for the victims.
"We can say that this can be the national disaster and everybody received this in a very sad way. The Regional Commissioner said that he can also prepare a very good program on how the pupils and staff can be counselled."
The school has launched an online donation page aimed at raising about $22,000 [50 million shillings] to help the families who lost their children.
Three American medical volunteers who witnessed the crash and helped rescue three survivors are now trying to bring the children to the United States for treatment.
They've visited the children in hospital every day since the crash, says Kevin Negaard, one of the volunteers.
"Every time it's been a little more reassuring. They're getting healthier and healthier, but they still have multiple injuries that really need significant care."
Their organization, Siouxland Tanzania Education Medical Ministries (STEMM) says it will cover the cost of the children's surgeries in the U.S.