Lost toddler found safe

2011-08-01 00:00

TWO-YEAR-OLD Amandawe toddler Olwami Dlomo was safely reunited with his family after having been lost for more than 10 hours on Thursday, July 28.

Children from neighbouring families in Ezinkawini Ward, Amandawe, near Scottburgh, were playing in their common yard at around 8.30 am when they decided to walk to the nearby sugarcane fields to break themselves some sugarcane to eat. The children ventured too far and ended up in Freeland Park on the southern bank of the Amahlongwa River, five kilometres from home. The two older children, Uthando (3) and Cebo (4), took turns to carry the smallest.

Somewhere along the way the curious and adventurous little Olwami strayed into the thicket closer to the river’s edge to peer into the water and a short while later fell asleep. His equally tired companions left him behind and headed for home along a different route from the one they had used earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, a couple of hours later, a relative back home realised that the children were missing from their usual play area. She alerted the children’s mothers who were at work, and neighbours, who joined her to search for the missing children.

At around 2 pm, the father of one of the boys was travelling in a taxi when he saw Uthando and Cebo walking towards Amandawe on the Dududu Main Road, without Olwami. The boys told him they had left Olwami behind because they could not carry him along anymore. Unfortunately, they could not remember exactly where they had been or where they had left the toddler.

Scottburgh SAPS was alerted and police immediately responded, but the children were unable to identify where Olwami had gone missing.

Police spokesperson Captain Vincent Pandarum said the Port Shepstone search and rescue unit was called out. Warrant Officer Fafa Pretorius, Warrant Officer Gawie Nel and Sergeant Porra de Rosa with his dog Kim joined in the search through hectares of fully grown sugarcane fields. “The rescue team, with the aid of search and rescue dog Kim, followed a spoor that led them to the bank of the Amahlongwa River in Freeland Park,” Pandarum said. Rescuers had to wade through the swampy river bank to reach the child and bring him out safely.

“He was found sound asleep and apart from the fact that he needed to be fed and have his diaper changed, he appeared to be fine and oblivious of the drama that he had caused.”

During the search, the missing child’s family became frantic as darkness fell and hopes of finding the child alive in the bitter evening cold were looking bleak.

“The river is reputed to be inhabited by crocodiles and the water level had risen dangerously high following the recent heavy rains. It was a pitch dark, moonless night, when the child was recovered at 7 pm with the only light being from torches and headlamps strapped to the heads of rescue personnel,” Pandarum said.

The overjoyed family were very grateful to the police and took the little one to the G.J. Crookes Hospital in Scottburgh, where he was found to be none the worse for wear.

“Fate probably favoured little Olwami’s mother by returning him safely into her arms when she cried out into the darkness ‘Olwami, Olwami’, which means ‘It’s mine’.”

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