Boys drown at pipe site

2012-01-11 00:00

THE families of two young boys who drowned at an Umgeni Water pipeline construction site in Imbali want answers on why the site was not fenced securely.

The bodies of Thobani Ngxongo (six) and Cebolakhe Ndlela (eight) from Imbali, who were both to start school today, were found in the Slang­spruit by people who launched a search for the missing pair.

Police divers later recovered their bodies. They had been reported missing on Monday after they failed to come home.

The distraught grandmother of Thobani, Beauty Gwala, was at the scene. She said they spent a sleepless night searching for the children, trying to find leads on their whereabouts.

She said that they were relieved to have found them.

Thobani’s mother, Prudence Ngxongo (35), said the boys had not played at the site previously and had not swum there before.

“Thobani wanted to be a policeman when he grew up.” The weeping mother said that her son was to begin grade one today.

His friend Cebolakhe was to start his grade two year at Funulwazi Primary School today.

Left: Thobani Ngxongo was due to start his first day  of school today.

Right: Cebolakhe Ndlela was due to start grade two.

At the scene of the drowning, Cebolakhe’s uncle Mxolisi Ndlela said: “We received a lot of information that they were seen with an older man that we don’t know, going to the river.

“Others said they were seen in France Bafaneni Tavern where we went and found nothing last night [Monday night].

“But we are relieved that we have found their bodies now, but police need to investigate the circumstances around their deaths.”

Community members at the scene said what fence there was had been stolen, which meant those who stole the fence were putting the lives of local children at risk. The part of the fence that remains at the site, is a wide wire mesh with wooden poles.

At Cebolakhe’s home, neighbours gathered and prayed, trying to comfort the distraught parents.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said inquest dockets have been opened and postmortems will be conducted to ascertain the cause of death.

Shami Harichunder, corporate stakeholder manager at Umgeni Water, said based on the information provided about the incident, they believe it occurred at the ED2 to Richmond pipeline project.

He said they were shocked and will conduct a full investigation.

“From what we understand, when the construction site shut down on December 22, the site was checked for adequate fencing and signage as part of the shutdown procedure which was found to be adequate.”

He said they, however, sympathised with the families, community and would look to assist in any way they can without accepting liability.

Attempts to contact the company responsible for the construction were unsuccessful.

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