Boy (8) swept away by Duzi

2009-02-01 00:00

The suspected drowning of an eight-year-old boy in the Umsunduzi River at Woodhouse Road near Scottsville on Saturday morning has once again highlighted the need for an elevated bridge to be built across the river there.

Many people have drowned in the same spot, and residents say they are unhappy because there is still no proper bridge.

Sphesihle Mabaso, a grade 3 pupil at Russell Primary School, was on his way to the SPCA with a group of friends when the incident happened. Sphesihle’s mother, Nonhlanhla, said that although divers tried to search for him, they could not continue as the water was too deep.

When The Witness visited the scene yesterday morning, the boy was still missing.

One of Sphesihle’s friends, who was with him when the incident happened, said that they had been asked by a woman from Sobantu to take her dog to the SPCA. On their way there, they found that the river was flowing very strongly.

“While we were puzzling at what to do, one of my other friends tried to dive into the water, but came out because the current was too strong. Then a car from a furniture shop came by and Sphesihle tried to cling on to it so that he could cross the river, but he fell into the water as the car drove over the low-level bridge.”

He said that they saw him clinging to trees, shouting for help. Some of the boys ran to Sobantu to get help as Sphesihle had by then disappeared.

Sphesihle’s mother said she is unhappy with the way things have been handled, as police have not done anything except come to the scene. “I am still waiting in agony as I was told that there are only four divers in Pietermaritzburg and they will not continue the search today [Sunday] as they are waiting for another diver to come from Ixopo.”

Inspector Ian Cowley of the police divers said that the divers had been on scene, but could not continue with the search as the water was still very deep and the current too strong.

Inspector Jack Haskins of the search and rescue unit said the search had not stopped and that police dogs have also been used to look for Sphesihle.

He said numerous warnings to people to stay away from the river have not been heeded.

“We put danger tape up around the low-level bridge on Saturday night, but when we arrived on Sunday [yesterday] morning, it had all been pulled down.”

Haskins echoed the community’s call and said the only solution is to erect bridges at both the Woodhouse Road and the Grimthorpe Avenue low-level bridges. “We have had so many drownings when people try to cross at these points while the river is in flood.”

Phil Mashoko, deputy municipal manager for infrastructure, services and facilities at Msunduzi Municipality, said the plan to build an elevated bridge at Woodhouse Road is being looked at as part of the municipality’s overall programme of bridge construction and maintenance.

“The major problem is that in terms of priorities, it has not yet been allocated money. Bridge construction in Grimthorpe Avenue… should begin in the next financial year,” he said.

Police said that if anyone sees any sign of Sphesihle, they should call 10111 or Crimestop on 08600 10111.

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