Jacob Humphreys, a driver who was responsible for the deaths of 10 children last year in South Africa, has been released to go home for Christmas this year as his bail was extended by a court.
The tragedy occurred in August 2010, when Humphreys, who was driving the children to school in Bellville, Cape Town, tried to overtake a line of waiting cars. He dodged a boom at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath, and collided with a train, killing 10 students on board. The driver was charged and later convicted on Dec. 12, 2011, with 10 counts of murder, including four counts of attempted murder (for the only children who survived,) The Independent Online has reported.
The victims were Nadine Marthinessen, 16, Liesl August, 11, Cody Erasmus, 15, Jody Phillips, 13, Reece Smith, 7, Nolan February, 13, Michaelin de Koker, 11, Jason Pedro, 14, Jeane-Pierre Willeman, 13, and Jade Adams, 10.
On Tuesday, Western Cape High Court made the decision to extend his bail, which allowed for his release from jail on Wednesday. The bail will lapse by Jan. 30, but he will now get to spend Christmas and New Years with his family – a development that has angered the families of the dead children.
Valerie Phillips, the mother of Jody, shared with IOL News her reaction to the news: “Mr Humphreys is not an important factor in my life any more… when he is behind bars his family can still come and visit and where do we go? To a graveyard.”
Rochelle Smith, the mother of Reece, was also upset: “Last year we had a very devastating Christmas knowing he was at home and now he’s going home again,” she explained. “I felt relieved thinking he was in (prison) and I was looking forward to Christmas, but with this news, I don’t know any more.”
The 56-year-old driver returned home this week, and shared with The Daily Voice that the first thing he did was wake up his two-year-old grandson and give him a hug.
He then went on to reveal that he trusts in God and leaves what happened in His hands, and did not see himself as responsible for the incident. He has even gone as far as to encourage the families of the victims to turn to Him as well: “If (the victims’ parents) serve the same God as I do they will know that only He can give you the love and comfort you need to go on. But if they don’t serve that God, then I don’t know where they will end up.”
Humphreys said that he was prohibited from apologizing to the families because of the bail conditions that barred him from making contact with them. He insisted, however, that he never meant to cause what happened: “As I said in court, those children were like my own kids and I will never, ever, ever do anything to hurt them. But I am very, very, very sorry about what happened.”
The driver described himself as a humble man and a strict father who taught his kids to only do what’s right and always speak the truth.
He admitted that at first he was scared and confused when he was sent to prison, but always trusted that God brought him there for reasons only He knows.
“(The accident) was God’s plan, I didn’t do it,” he proclaimed, and shared that he would be going to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas day to thank God for all that he has done for him.
“I believe that (the children) are with God and He used me to get them to Him,” Humphreys explained, suggesting that his conscience over the incident was clear.