Shocking amount of drownings in seven days

HAZYVIEW – The deaths of young people in the Lowveld’s waters reached a peak this week when police diving units retrieved five bodies. They are still looking for a sixth. Province-wide, suspected drownings totalled 10 over the past seven days.

Police have urged the community to take special care of their children during the rainy season. Most recently, the body of  Mr Ndumiso Shabangu (23) was retrieved from the Sabie River on Wednesday.

The team had been searching for Shabangu since he was reported missing on Saturday.
A local sangoma stirred up his family members with claims that he was still alive. She wanted the SAPS Diving Unit stationed in White River to end the search.

According to Capt Pottie Potgieter, the family insisted the divers stop the search that day as the spirit of the water would keep him down and he would die. They said the sangoma had seen him fishing the same day his body was recovered. Police were then forced to allow the family to view his body, although decomposed, to verify he was not alive at the time of the supposed sighting by the sangoma.

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The SAPS also used helicopters and local rescue parties to scan large parts of the Sabie River for him, before finally discovering his body four days later. “The police’s magic is much stronger than the sangoma’s,” said Potgieter.

After another tragic accident, the bodies of three teenagers were also retrieved in Tonga on Tuesday. The girls, aged 13, 14 and 15, reportedly went swimming with two boys in a quarry at Dludluma Trust. Something went wrong and community members jumped in to try and save the children. The boys were rescued, but all three girls had disappeared under the water. The residents managed to find two of the bodies, but the police diving unit had to be called in to retrieve the third.

Bystanders were very emotional. All three were declared dead by the paramedics on the scene.

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On the same day the team recovered the body of a 10-year-old boy in a river near Mhala. The search for a 14-year-old boy, who apparently lost his footing while crossing the Crocodile River near Matsulu last Friday, was also continuing at the time of going to press. It is suspected that he was swept away by the strong current.

Read more here: Man rescued from drowning in the city

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Bossies Community Justice continued with the search with the aid of the Kruger National Parks Air Wing on Tuesday, but they were unable to find him. Mr Albert Gryvenstein, however, reported seeing the water infested with crocodiles and hippos. They pose a massive challenge to the diving units in the area’s rivers. “If the crocodiles do not get the body, we do,” Potgieter said.

Aside from the rescuers having to avoid the wild animals, drowning victims can easily be carried far off downstream, which impedes the team.

Read more here: Mentally disabled boy drowns

During the search for Shabangu, the unit started at the spot where he had last been seen fetching water from the river.  The five-member team, including Potgieter’s wife, Capt Joey Potgieter, first had to walk through rough bush terrain, carrying their boats on their backs and wearing heavy diving suits, as well as all their equipment, to reach the river.

After the area was searched by boat but to no avail, the team moved a couple of kilometres down the river.  This was when Pottie got a faint whiff of the decomposing body. He called back the team to search an area full of reeds where locals were fishing.

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The young man’s body was found among the long reeds and carefully brought back on to land.

The sangoma was anguished. The team continued the search for the missing boy in Matsulu yesterday.

Police spokesman, Brig Leonard Hlathi, requested people to take extra care of their children if they were playing near or in rivers or dams. “There are unfortunate situations in which young lives have been squashed in a blink of an eye which could have been avoided,” he said.

Read more here : Boy (12) drowns at Elands River Waterfall

Tereasa Dias and Elbi Dippenaar

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