Police give up on search for body

2011-01-11 00:00

THE search for the body of Veronica Khubeka (27), who drowned in the Uvongo lagoon with her 14-year-old stepdaughter on Thursday, has been officially called off by a SA Police search-and-rescue dive team.

The team of rescuers searched the lagoon for the last time yesterday but were unable to recover the body.

“There are a hundred possibilities as to where the body could be; it could have been swept out to sea,” said Lieutenant Colonel Zandra Wiid from the Port Shepstone SAPF.

“We have done everything we can now and our thoughts go out to the family at this difficult time; we will continue to monitor the beaches in the hope that the body shows up.”

Patrick Hendry, Khubeka’s husband, says that he is trying his best to cope with the situation.

“I don’t know how I’m feeling; I’m just going with the flow,” he said yesterday.

“I will have to go home [to Ladysmith] sometime this week.”

Hendry has been travelling to Uvongo beach from Berea in Durban, where the family was vacationing, every day since the incident took place.

“I come here every morning hoping that I’ll see a floating body,” said Hendry.

“I’m waiting for a miracle.”

Hendry’s brother, Lucky Nkosi, revealed that there had been some concerns from within the family as to the manner in which the situation has been handled by certain authorities.

The main concern they revealed was the role that the beach lifeguards played in the rescue efforts.

After being alerted to the situation on Thursday, Uvongo lifeguards responded by saying that they were not in a position to attempt a rescue in the lagoon, that the ocean was their primary concern and that they were not allowed to attempt a rescue on a person that is submerged in the water.

Hendry was then forced to wait for another 30 minutes before a police search-and-rescue team arrived and a rescue attempt could begin.

“These lifeguards are young and inexperienced,” said Nkosi.

He added that the “no swimming” signs now seen at the lagoon were only erected after the incident took place.

Tower 13 Lifeguards operations director Leon Garbade was at the lagoon on the day of the tragedy and acknowledged that what transpired was “really regrettable”.

“Our lifeguards are not trained or equipped to perform dive operations and body recoveries,” said Garbade.

“During our peak seasons we will have a lifeguard at the lagoon, but not on a normal patrol day.”

Garbade added that the “no swimming” signs are visible every day of the week and challenged the notion that they were only put up after the incident.

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