Car swept off bridge, five drown

2012-12-31 00:00

RAGING inland waters have claimed a number of lives since Christmas, with five people drowning in Ladysmith in one incident alone.

All five were occupants in a car that got swept off a low-level bridge in the vicinity of nearby Peace Town on Wednesday evening.

Search and rescue unit leader Lieutenant Jack Haskins said two bodies were recovered the following night, about three kilometres from where the incident happened.

The river is normally a spruit that trickles into the Klipriver. Earlier, rains had turned it into a torrent.

“You should have seen how the water was pumping,” said Haskins.

On Friday, Haskins and his K9 search and rescue team launched a full operation to find the remaining three occupants. During this search the car, an Opel Corsa, was found, empty and battered by the current.

Rescuers resumed their operation again on Saturday, taking to the air in a chopper.

Haskins said two more bodies were found, and later the third. They had been swept between 10 km and 15 km from the bridge where they disappeared. “You underestimate the power of water,” said Haskins.

A journalist with the Ladysmith Herald, Claudine Senekal, took part in the search and was with the group that found the first body at 11 pm on Thursday.

She said that if it hadn’t have been for a farmer who knew “that section of the Klipriver like the back of his hand”, she doubted the body would have been discovered.

“It is very, very remote,” said Senekal, who suffered dehydration after searching for six hours.

Elsewhere, two people drowned, one in Hattingspruit on the Day of Goodwill and another in Madadeni on Saturday. Both were washed away by swollen rivers.

Also on Saturday, the body of a 17-year-old boy was recovered from the sea after he had disappeared in the surf at Thurton Beach on the South Coast the day before.


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