Man dies in sewer treasure hunt

2014-11-15 00:00

A TELEVISION documentary probably piqued a man’s interest to go on a treasure hunt in a sewerage pipe — a dangerous and sometimes deadly exercise.

Unfortunately, the 45-year-old man never lived to tell the tale of his unusual expedition because he was found dead, twisted and stuck between shaft screws inside the machines at the Southern Waste Treatment Works last Friday.

The unidentified man has put a face to an increasing problem facing the eThekwini Municipality.

Treasure hunting syndicates often include men going down sewage pipes to search for jewellery and any valuables that have accidentally been flushed down toilets, showers or kitchen sink drains.

This year alone, three men have died while performing the daring illegal activity and three have been rescued, according to the police.

In July last year, the body of Bhayo Mnqayi was pulled out of a drain by eThekwini municipal workers.

The man and three others were in a sewerage pipe in the Merebank canal using torches to find gold and diamonds when they slipped and landed in the fast flowing effluent.

In a separate incident, it was reported in April that a man was found trapped in a Newlands West sewerage pipe while searching for gold.

A police source investigating the treasure hunters told Weekend Witness: “Many of them first saw this on a documentary called Cutting Edge, which showed a man going down the sewerage pipes with a head torch to search for gold.”

Another police officer said treasure hunters are usually members of a neighbouring community.

“They climb down the manhole and into the drains, then walk along the drains underground. Then they will crawl into the sewer pipes and sometimes the sewer levels increase because as people flush their toilets, it increases the pressure levels,” said a police officer, who also asked not to be named because he was unauthorised to speak to the media.

“They tie a rope or a string to their necks, with a little plastic bottle on the other end where they store their treasure. Sometimes they drown and their bodies get pushed down the pipes, and then they block the pipes and that is usually how we find them,” said the officer.

Aaron Mfunda, the deputy head of eThekwini Water and Sanitation, asked people to report these incidents by contacting 080 131 3013.


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