Toddler swept to his death as family fight to survive flood

2010-12-18 00:00

A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy drowned when he was washed out of his father’s arms in floodwaters in Groot Marico in the North West on Thursday night.

The Black family from Linden, Johannesburg, were staying on a guest farm in the rural area when the tragedy happened.

Belinda Black said yesterday she woke at about midnight to find the bedroom ankle-deep in water.

“It was terribly dark and the rain was coming down in torrents.”

Her husband, 50/50 cameraman Daniel Black, had to use the light from their cellphones to see by.

The mattress on which their children, Eric (3) and Jennifer (18 months), were sleeping was bobbing in the water. The couple each grabbed a toddler and a blanket.

They woke Belinda’s son, Darren McNicol (14) and ran out the back door through water hip-deep.

“When we opened the door, we saw Daniel’s company car drift by … We wanted to get to higher ground, but I was scared and stayed in the house with Jennifer,” said Belinda.

Darren ran to a fence and clung on, followed by Daniel, carrying Eric.

Belinda shouted to Darren: “I love you, I’ll see you in heaven.”

Black said he “couldn’t feel the ground under my feet. I was tired and I tried to grip the fence with my legs. Eric was crying in my arms.”

The river swept Daniel away, and Eric disappeared from his arms.

Darren lost his grip on the fence and was also swept away, but a bolt of lightning let him see a tree and he clambered into the branches.

Belinda, clutching Jennifer, stood on a sewerage pipe behind the house, hanging onto the eaves with one hand. “I thought it was the end of us all. After about an hour, I looked at my cellphone and saw that it was 1.22 am. I was getting very tired.”

She pushed a bathroom window open, hooked her leg over the sill, grabbed a curtain and made a sling for Jennifer that she tied to the roof.

Daniel was swept 200 metres downstream before he clambered into the tree where Darren was.

When the water level fell, Belinda and Jennifer climbed into a cupboard and fell asleep until sunrise.

At about 6 am, neighbours found them and Darren and Daniel.

Emergency workers found Eric’s body downstream some hours later.

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