Man loses his wife of two weeks and daughter to drowning

2011-01-07 00:00

A DAY on the beach turned into tragedy for a Vryheid family as a mother and her stepdaughter drowned in the Uvongo lagoon yesterday afternoon.

Patrick Hendry had taken his wife of two weeks, Veronica Khubeka (27), and his 14-year-old daughter, Thobeka Hendry, to the beach in Uvongo for the day so his wife could meet up with an old friend.

The family had been vacationing in Berea.

Hershila Govan, Khubeka’s friend, said Khubeka took Thobeka for a swim in the lagoon just metres away from the water’s edge.

She suspects that the two fell down a sand embankment and that Thobeka held on to her stepmother because she could not swim.

A group of girls who were swimming nearby saw the struggling pair and alerted the beach authorities.

By the time lifeguards arrived on the scene, both Thobeka and Khubeka were submerged.

Protocol specifies that lifeguards must wait for a SA Police Force search-and-rescue team to arrive on the scene before a rescue attempt can begin, which happened in a matter of minutes.

At around 2.15 pm, Hendry watched as police divers began the search for the bodies of his wife and daughter.

As the time stretched, the inevitability of a double tragedy grew stronger.

“He is not doing okay; they have only been married for about two weeks,” said a concerned Govan while she and a crowd of beach­goers watched the rescue team at work.

Hendry had to wait until 4.20 pm for the first body to be recovered — that of his daughter Thobeka. The strong tide in the lagoon had trapped her under a rock.

Rescuers continued the search for Khubeka’s body until 6.15 pm, but were unsuccessful.

Lieutenant-Colonel Zandra Wiid of the SA Police Force said the search will resume at 8 am today.

Hendry was left with the awful task of alerting his daughter’s mother.

“I think he will tell [Thobeka’s mother’s] sister,” said Govan, because it will be hard for him to break the news to the mother.

One of the divers involved in the recovery of Thobeka’s body confirmed that an adult body is likely to move further than that of a child.

“The current is very strong out there and it is moving really fast,” said Warrant Officer Francois Pretorius.

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