‘He was the youngest and the cleverest of them all’

2013-05-31 00:00

SIMPHIWE Mbense (five) was the first in his class to pay for his trip to the Royal Show.

He was also the first to arrive at school for the outing yesterday morning.

It would be the last trip he would go on. Simphiwe, of Snathingi, was killed yesterday afternoon while enjoying a funfair ride.

It is thought that Simphiwe — one of 45 Kwanoshezi Primary School pupils accompanied to the showgrounds by three teachers and three parents — stood up in his car on the Music Box ride and was knocked by another car. Paramedics pronounced him dead.

Called to the showgrounds by teachers, Sibusiso Mbense arrived to find his child dead. He would not blame anyone for the accident.

“I wasn’t here, and I didn’t see anything. So I can’t blame anyone.

“We have to just sit down and make funeral arrangements. We have not taken a decision on when it will be,” he said.

Simphiwe was Mbense’s youngest son. He has two other children, aged 20 and 18.

He said: “Simphiwe was the light of my life. He kept me going and was always full of tricks. Because the other children are all grown up, he and I spent lots of time together. He gave me a second chance to be a father. We are all really devastated by what happened. It’s really a bad day for our family.”

Kwanoshezi headmistress Zabelo Basi cried when speaking about Simphiwe, who she said she knew very well.

“He was the youngest and cleverest of them all,” she said, adding that she gave Simphiwe a lift to and from school daily.

In the morning, Basi received a call from a teacher informing her that the group had arrived safely. Later she would receive another call that would see her abandoning a meeting and rushing to the showgrounds.

“I didn’t expect this. We’re still baffled. We focused on making sure that the vehicles we used to transport the pupils were roadworthy. We made sure that we picked the best cars and all three vehicles we used were as good as new. But little did we know that a crisis was waiting for us at the show.”

Basi said she would break the news of Simphiwe’s death to other pupils this morning. Counselling would also be provided.

“All I can say to the parents is that they’re not alone; I’m feeling the same pain they’re going through,” she added.

Funfair assistant Pias Muvah said he saw the incident.

“The boy stood up while the ride was spinning and was hit on the head.”

When Mpumelelo Mbense, Simphiwe’s mother, arrived at the show after being contacted, she was inconsolable. She fell to the ground when police told her the news of her son’s death.

Ntokozo Mpulo, a parent and member of the Kwanoshezi governing body, was looking after Simphiwe’s class at the Royal Show. Stunned by the incident, she could not stop crying.

Aaron Mokete, who was operating the ride, was left traumatised. He briefed the police and, shaking, was taken for counselling.

Simphiwe’s classmates seemed not to understand the severity of the situation. They sat together talking to one another, one saying she was having fun.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said it was thought that Simphiwe stood up while the ride was moving and was hit by another car.

“The operator immediately stopped the ride and ER24 emergency services were contacted,” she said. Simphiwe was taken to the emergency services facility at the showgrounds, where he died.

An inquest was opened, said Jeevan.

Royal Show CEO Terry Strachan was distressed by the “freak accident”. He sent his condolences to Simphiwe’s family and promised a thorough investigation.

Strachan said the ride would remain closed until the investigation was completed.

He said the ride had a height restriction of one metre, and Simphiwe just made it.

Bystanders called for a full investigation of the incident, questioning why a little child had been allowed on the ride.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu said the department was saddened and shocked by Simphiwe’s death. Asked whether the department would revisit the policy on field trips, officials said they would wait for the inquest to be finalised before commenting.

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