Siblings drown in trench

2010-09-22 00:00

THE sight of groundwater seeping up inside a Transnet pipeline trench outside their home in uMbumbulu keeps the pain fresh for a Durban couple whose children recently drowned there.

Patience Mthembu (41) and her husband Victor Zungu (41) of Mvuzane village, south of Durban, are still battling to accept the reality that they will never see their daughter Amahle (6) and son Sphephelo (8) again.

The children drowned in the water-filled trench on September 11.

They were buried on Saturday. The funeral of the children, who were pupils at Emangadini Primary, was attended by about 100 schoolmates.

“When I look at that trench I feel the pain of losing my children, yet I have to face the trench as it is in front of my homestead,” said Zungu.

 On the day of the tragedy, the children and their nine-year-old friend were playing near the trench when Amahle slipped and fell into the deep water.

Sphephelo jumped in to save his sister’s life, but he also disappeared under the water.

Their friend ran to tell Mthembu and about three hours later, a young man pulled the children out of the water.

Transnet dug the trench to place its new fuel pipeline, which will run for 555 km from Durban to Johannesburg.

“I was at work when I received a call telling me that I must rush home. The relative just said it was about my two elder children,” said Zungu, the father of four.

Mthembu said she sent the children to collect cow dung for her house floor at about 4 pm.

“They decided to go and play near the trench. When I heard about the accident I went mad …” she said.

The family said that if Trans­net not left the trench open, the children would still be alive.

“This trench has been left open for the past three months and became dangerous for our children,” said the siblings’ grandmother Thandekile Zungu.

The trench has since been barricaded and a security guard has been posted to keep children away.

Mboniso Sigonyela, a Trans­net spokesperson, said the company has launched an investigation.

“We anticipate that this review will cover the proper application of standard safety and security measures, which are mandatory at all the construction sites along this 555 km pipeline project.

“In addition, Transnet has also launched a board of inquiry with an independent chairperson,” said Sigonyela.

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