South African Coach Crash: Workaholic boss forced to take a holiday died saving his wife in tour death crash

THE 34 British tourists on theBest of Africa trip were scheduled to spend yesterday "at leisure" in the Mount Grace Hotel near Pretoria, savouring the warmth of a southern hemisphere spring before catching South African Airways flight back to Britain tonight. But yesterday turned out to be unseasonably cold and grey on the hillside above Lydenburg.

While crash investigators were sifting through the wreckage of the tourists' Springbok Atlas coach, a chill wind tugged at the damp grass and rustled the strewn remains of a dream holiday - a shopping bag from Cape Town, a baggage tag from the Sabi Sabi game reserve, a blood-stained rubber glove discarded by a frantic rescue worker the day before.

The bodies of 26 of the British tourists lay in the mortuaries at the town's hospital and funeral parlour yesterday, awaiting formal identification; another six passengers who had miraculously survived Monday's crash were in Lydenburg hospital, awaiting transfer by air to a private clinic in Johannesburg; and three seriously injured holidaymakers lay in intensive care at the provincial hospital at Nelspruit.

Among the dead was a workaholic company boss who went on holiday to South Africa only because his wife persuaded him that he needed to relax. And he may have died while saving her from serious injury when the vehicle careered off a mountain road.

Friends, family members and work colleagues yesterday paid tribute to Tony Sparrowe, 63. His wife Jane, 56, survived, and has been flown to the Johannesburg clinic for treatment for a broken leg and concussion. Speaking from the couple's home in Kirk Ella, near Hull, their 32-year- old daughter, Adele, said that her mother was aware of Mr Sparrowe's death. "From what we've heard, it seems that mum wasn't too badly hurt because dad protected her," she said.

Nigel Thacker, chief engineer at Northern Divers Ltd, the Hull company that Mr Sparrowe founded in 1963, said that the couple had been planning the trip for a year but, as usual, it was Mrs Sparrowe who had been the instigator of the holiday, ensuring that he got away from his desk. In recent years the couple, married for 35 years and with three children and five grandchildren, had travelled to Canada, India and China.

As other British communities waited for their own confirmation of tragedy, the Foreign Office said that the dead came from as far afield as Essex, Norfolk, Cleveland, Surrey, Shropshire, Berkshire, west Yorkshire, Somerset, Northamptonshire, Middlesex, Devon, London, Humberside and Staffordshire. A South African tour guide also died.

Due to the gruesome nature of the injuries suffered by the passengers when the bus left the road, exact identification of the victims was still proving difficult, a spokesman said. But the identities of seven of the nine tourists who survived were today released by the Foreign Office and local hospital authorities. They are a tour guide, Ms Sandover, 45; Mrs Sparrowe; Lesley Dick, 36, from Worthing, West Sussex; Shirley Wood, 62, from Hertfordshire; Harry Smith, 51, from Surrey; Barry Watson, 59, from Birmingham; and Dennis Dryden, from Surrey, for whom no age was available. The two other Britons were understood to be a man and a woman, both of whom suffered serious injuries and were detained in hospital at Lydenburg, along with the South African coach driver, who is still conscious despite serious leg injuries.

At lunchtime yesterday a police spokesman, Inspector Gerrit Smit, said that the driver had been interviewed and was claiming that the brakes on his coach had failed as it came to one of the last bends on the scenic Long Tom Pass, a 35-mile route across the Transvaal Drakensberg Escarpment.

According to Inspector Smit, a formal investigation had already been opened and it was possible that the driver would be charged with culpable homicide if he was found to be at fault.

On the hillside above Lydenburg experts from Pretoria were examining the scene of the crash to try to determine what really happened to the Best of Africa tour. They photographed the desperate skidmarks that swerved back and forth across the steep, narrow and twisiting road, and took note of the positions of the little yellow traffic cones which marked the final resting places of 27 dead.

Just above them, on the second last sharp bend of the pass, a yellow sign indicated to descending drivers that a gravel trap waited below to stop runaway vehicles with failing brakes. Yesterday, just as the forensic science experts were driving off, a pick-up truck towing two overloaded trailers of timber screamed past the accident site, smoke pouring from its brakes.

Three kilometres down the road, it swerved off the long straight leading to the edge of Lydenburg and into the deep, crunching bed of gravel. It shuddered to a halt within 20 yards and one of the traffic policeman descending from the crash site above stopped to write it a ticket. Had the death coach survived the mountain's last two bends on Monday, it and its passengers would have escaped at least as lightly.

The death of so many overseas visitors has deepened the unseasonable gloom in a region that depends a great deal on its position at a tourist crossroads.

Yesterday morning the local Dutch Reformed Minister, the Reverend Piet Bezuidenhout, took flowers to Lydenburg hospital for the victims still being treated within. Each little basket of blooms was labelled simply "to a friend". As Mrs Hantie Bezuidenhout explained, they did not even know the names of the victims being treated within but they were still in the prayers of all the townspeople.

"We are sharing their grief and we are praying for them," she told the throng of journalists shivering outside the tiny hospital. "It is a horrible thing."

At the other end of Lydenburg's social scale Stan, an ageing highveld drifter with soft eyes, was sitting outside the liquor store on Voortrekker Street, waiting for a random lift to somewhere else or a soft touch for a beer. Today he wanted more than a coin, however.

"You see this thing about the bus yesterday," he said, pausing just outside the liquor store door. "I read about this morning in Afrikaans, in the newspaper. It is a terrible thing. So many people who were just out to enjoy themselves. It's a real shame."

Suggested Topics
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial