Howick falls claims another victim as woman jumps to her death

2013-11-16 00:00

A MAN who shouted out to a woman perched at the top of Howick falls recounted yesterday how she looked at him, then shook her head, before plunging to her death.

The traumatised man said after what he saw, he needed counselling.

Theresa Mbanjwa, a 35-year-old woman from the Shiyabazali informal settlement next to the falls, jumped over just across from the tourist sightseeing area, landing in the pool below the falls.

The fall is estimated at 95 metres.

Police spokesperson Captain Lolly Moodley said it was a mystery why the woman jumped and that no foul play was suspected.

The witness, who asked not to be named, was walking in the area above the falls where residents wash their clothes. He said: “I saw her as she was about to jump”.

“She was standing right on the edge and manoeuvring as if to dive, preparing to jump. I called out to her and she turned and looked at me and shook her head and then she jumped.

“I rushed down there calling on a woman who was there washing clothes, asking if she saw that the other woman had jumped.

“We rushed to the edge and when we got there it was over; I just saw the blood spreading in the water …,” he said.

Gabisile Dladla, another witness, said she was shocked. “I was washing my clothes. This woman was well dressed and kept looking around and looking at the water.”

Dladla said her back was turned when other women jumped. “I heard a man screaming and running down towards the falls; he told me the woman had jumped.”

They said before she jumped, she took off her necklace and placed it with a cellphone and a R20 note on the rocks.

The experienced police search and rescue team led by Lieutenant Jack Haskins engaged in a dangerous exercise to recover Mbanjwa’s body as they abseiled 105 metres from the tourist viewing area to the bottom of the cliff where the body was.

Because of the inclement weather, the team did not have access to a helicopter.

They used their vehicle, tying a rope onto its front and using three other vehicles as back-up and support to lower Warrant Officer Michael Bennett and Sergeant Fred Brandt down to the pool.

The team, which had attended to a bus accident in Estcourt at 4 am still had enough mental and physical strength to engage in another gruelling search and rescue effort lasting hours to recover the body.

“It was very difficult getting down there,” said Bennett. He said they had to deal with the slipperiness of the area, the branches and rocks.

Onlookers themselves flirted with death as they stood inches away from the spot where she jumped, trying to get a glimpse of the police recovering her body.

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