Police dog gives rescue divers clues

2014-02-11 00:00

A POLICE dog appears to have identified the general area where the body of a Johannesburg businessman who went missing during the Midmar Mile on Saturday could be found.

The search and rescue team is being led by Lieutenant Jack Haskins and his dog Udain, who had seemingly isolated the area where Thabo van Straten (43), a director of a Johannesburg medical company, might have drowned during the event on Saturday.

Udain led the police to an area near the finish line at around 4 pm yesterday.

The dog uses its sense of smell to pick up gases released by bodies underwater. It then swims in a circle to mark the area for divers to search.

Police spokesperson Lolly Moodley said the divers started their search at 1 pm yesterday. “There was another event that finished at around 1 pm. That was when we began our search because we could not search between events.”

He said the search area was vast and the body could be found soon or it might take days.

“Depending on the temperature of the water, we could find the body soon. If the water is warm, the body will float up quicker.

“Another difficulty is that the divers can only see up to two metres in the water. It’s like being blind, so they have to use their hands to feel around,” said Moodley.

The search was called off in failing light at about 6 pm, but is expected to resume this morning.

The police had been searching for Van Straten’s body since Saturday, when he did not arrive at the finish line where his fiancée was waiting for him.

Members of the Van Straten family joined his fiancée Shene Jones at the dam yesterday.

His mother and two sisters had travelled from Johannesburg and were seen hugging Jones next to a makeshift base at the dam from where the family watched the divers.

Van Straten’s brother in-law, Riaan Schoeman, said the family was devastated by the tragedy.

“His mother and his two sisters are already down there. What they want now is closure.

“His colleagues and friends from the medical company had also taken part in the Midmar Mile and are all down there. This is a big tragedy for all of us,” he said.

• Meanwhile, a Pietermaritzburg resident has been identified as the woman who drowned at Salt Rock on the North Coast at the weekend.

Police said Samke Mkhize (34) drown-ed while swimming on Saturday.

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