Death: Game on old canoe turns fatal at Eston farm dam

2009-02-08 00:00

An afternoon frolic turned tragic yesterday when an 11-year-old boy drowned at Eston Dam shortly after midday.

Sphe Mtungwa, a grade 1 pupil at Fairleigh Primary, and 10 of his friends were at the Beaumont Eston Farmers’ Club watching racing cars when they came across an abandoned canoe.

With the dam a short distance away, the boys decided to test the small boat. When they reached the dam, they pushed the canoe into the water and three of them climbed in.

“I was waiting on the grass, but when I saw that there were three of them on the canoe, I told them two had to jump off because there’s only enough space for one person [on the canoe].

Sphe stood up to jump off, but he slipped and fell into the water,” said Sihle Ngcobo, one of Sphe’s friends.

Sihle said he rushed to the water’s edge to try to help his friend.

“Someone passed me a stick to try and reach Sphe, but the stick was too short to reach him and he went under. That was the last time we saw him,” said Sihle.

Sphe’s father, Jerome Mtungwa, said he was visiting a friend when a car pulled up to tell him that his son had drowned at Eston Dam.

“I used to tell him [Sphe] that I didn’t want him playing there, but he used to sneak off behind my back,” said Mtungwa.

Inspector Jack Haskins of the K9 Search and Rescue Unit said his team was packing up after finishing their duties at the Midmar Mile when they received a phone call telling them to make their way to the dam as a little boy had drowned.

It did not take them long to retrieve the body.

“We used some the victim’s friends to try and confirm the exact spot where the body went under. We then used a search-and-rescue dog to confirm the area before our divers went in.

“Because the water was too muddy and you couldn’t see through it, our divers had to feel their way around in order to find him,” said Haskins.

The divers discovered the body four metres from the bank, at a depth of 1,2 metres.

“After 15 years of doing this you may think it gets easier, but it actually gets harder.

“We’re very fortunate to have been able to resolve this tragic incident so quickly so that the family can have closure,” he said.

Shortly after the retrieval of Sphe’s body, Haskins and his team rushed over to kwaHarry Farm Dam in Nottingham Road to search for the body of a 17-year-old boy.

“He had been playing with a tractor tube on the dam when he fell off and drowned,” said Haskins.

The teenager’s name was not released last night.

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