School trip ends in tragedy

2016-03-16 06:00
PHOTO: SUPPLIEDThe scene in Margate on Saturday evening where three Pietermaritzburg pupils drowned. Police are still searching for one of the pupils.

PHOTO: SUPPLIEDThe scene in Margate on Saturday evening where three Pietermaritzburg pupils drowned. Police are still searching for one of the pupils.

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POLICE are still searching for one of three Pietermaritzburg pupils who drowned at Shelly Beach in Margate on Saturday evening.

It is believed the pupils, from Bongumusa High School in Swayimane, were returning home with their teachers when the drownings occurred. The school group were visiting Mbambi High School in Gcima in Margate on a sports trip for the day. The Pietermaritzburg pupils, Zanele Vidima (16) and Nomvula Zondi (16), were declared dead at the scene when police search and rescue teams pulled them out of the water.

The National Sea Rescue Unit (NSRU) said a male pupil was seen floating face down in the water, however, despite extensive search efforts the teenager has not yet been found. The name of the missing pupil has not been released. Eyewitnesses at the beach said the incident happened at around 5.30pm when lifeguards were off duty. “We saw about nine pupils in difficulty in the water and saw them moving toward the rocks. We managed to pull out about six children,” Adriaan Muller from Witbank told the NSRU.

Two men, believed to be off-duty lifeguards from Durban also joined bystanders in pulling the children out of the water.

“It was not immediately clear if some of the children were part of those who got into difficulty or if some of the children had gone in to assist those in difficulty,” said Craig Lambinon of NSRU.

The children were pulled out by the bystanders as they managed to reach the rocks safely. None of those children was injured.

The bodies of Zanele and Nomvula were taken into the care of the forensic pathology services while police search and rescue teams continued their search for the missing male teenager on Sunday.

Pietermaritzburg resident Ricky Jugree, on holiday in Margate, said he saw the commotion when he and his family went to the beach for dinner.

“We were going down to a restaurant and I saw the search and rescue vans as well as ambulances all around. Although the area was cordoned off I could see the teachers were hysterical,” said Jugree.

He said the police spent more than two hours in search of the missing teenager, however, postponed the search as they were losing daylight.

Having breakfast at the beach on Sunday morning, Jugree said he saw search and rescue teams back on the beach resuming their search for the missing pupil.

Margate police spokesperson Captain Gerald Mseka said the police were investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident and have opened an inquest docket into the case.

“It is a very sad incident, but police search and rescue are continuing their search for the missing boy. We will investigate the case to establish exactly why the children were allowed to swim after lifeguards left the beach.”

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