A bus which crashed on a road in South Africa, killing three Brooksby Melton College students, was making a ‘hideous’ noise in the seconds before the tragedy - a survivor told an inquest into their deaths today (Wednesday).
Teenagers Eleanor Payne and Samantha Lake, both 19, and 22-year-old Daniel Greenwood died when the safari bus skidded and flipped over on the penultimate day of a 10-day college trip.
The trio, who were studying for a degree in animal management and welfare, were part of a group of 18 students from the college.
But the tour ended in disaster when the bus overturned while travelling on the Bulembu road near the north-eastern city of Nelspruit. They were on their way from Swaziland to visit a chimpanzee sanctuary.
Miss Lake, of Syston, and Miss Payne, of Hinckley, died almost instantly in the crash which happened on June 10, 2010. Mr Greenwood, of Syston, died later in hospital.
The second day of the inquest heard harrowing evidence from friends who were with them on the vehicle when it crashed.
They described a ‘screeching’ and ‘grating’ noise which started after the Zimbabwean driver of the bus, Shingirayi Goto, took a ‘terrifying’ shortcut up a badly rutted mountain track less than an hour before the accident.
The students said they believed the noise was coming from the vehicle’s brakes, although the inquest has heard their tour guide told lecturer Lesley Wojnarowicz it was simply the windscreen wipers.
Amy Hands told the hearing at Loughborough Coroner’s Court: “It was a hideous noise. Jamie (Martin, a fellow student) said ‘That’s not the wipers, that’s the brakes’.
“It was as we were going down hills at points. It was a screeching sound. It would have been consistent with when Shingirayi was using the brakes.”
Describing the accident, which happened on a three-mile mountain descent, Miss Hands said: “I remember someone shouting, ‘We are going to crash’, then I remember falling, then blackness.
“As I fell, I instinctively grabbed a seat. I remember closing my eyes, then falling.”
Student Rachel Greaves told the hearing the shortcut Mr Goto took was ‘terrifying’.
She said: “I remember my hands shaking. There was a sheer drop on either side at times. I remember coming down the hill and it feeling fast. The bus was rickety anyway and it went to the right. I felt like it was going to rectify itself and it did so but then went over.”
Miss Greaves said she was the first person to escape from the overturned bus, followed moments later by Mr Goto.
She added: “I saw this look of disbelief on his face. That look will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Emma Greet, the best friend of Miss Lake who was sat next to her when the accident occurred, said the noise was ‘like two bits of metal grating against each other’.
She said: “It started on the bumpy road. It was on and off. It came when the brakes were applied.”
Describing the accident, she added: “I can remember feeling my head grating along the road and saying to myself, ‘Lift your head up because you will die if you don’t.”
The two lecturers on the trip, Mrs Wojnarowicz and Kate Cox, have previously told the hearing how tour guide Trevor Dearlove, then 65, apologised after the shortcut on the mountain track, claiming locals had said it was ‘okay’.
None of the students who gave evidence said they had been told by Mr Dearlove, who worked for travel company Schools Worldwide Ltd, the organisers of the trip, to wear seatbelts at any time during the tour.
The inquest continues.