In Botswana, 44 victims of an Easter bus crash in South Africa are laid to rest

MOLEPOLOLE, Botswana (AP) — At least 44 people who died in a horrific bus crash during Easter weekend in South Africa were laid to rest in neighboring Botswana on Saturday.

About 5,000 mourners clad in black gathered in the Botswana village of Molepolole to pay their last respects nearly a month after the bus crash that claimed the lives of everybody on board except one 8-year-old child.

The bus driver, Ogaufi Noonyane, was buried separately in the village of Thamaga, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.

The victims were travelling to an Easter pilgrimage of the Zion Christian Church, one of the biggest churches in southern Africa, when their bus plunged about 50 meters (yards) from a bridge near Mokopane village in South Africa's northern province of Limpopo.

The accident was a tragic reminder of how deadly South Africa’s roads become during the Easter period, when millions crisscross the country during the long holiday weekend.

The mass funeral followed the repatriation of the victims' remains to their home country of Botswana.

“We stand here with devastated hearts,” said Limpopo provincial minister of health Phophi Ramathuba, who was among the South African dignitaries who attended the funeral.

Atlang Siako, the sole survivor, was transported back home to Botswana after receiving medical attention in South Africa.

Last month, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi visited the scene of the crash, where they laid wreaths and paid their respects to the deceased.