Midmar claims third victim

2015-02-09 00:00

THE 42nd Midmar Mile was marred by tragedy after 30-year-old swimmer ­Tristan Dennis became the third to go missing in five years of the world’s biggest open water swimming event.

Dennis went missing during the ­company relay on Saturday and is presumed to have drowned. His body had not been found when the search was called off yesterday afternoon.

However, his brother Tarquin bravely took to the water to finish the race for the brother yesterday.

Accompanied by SA Navy divers and close friends, Tarquin swam the Mile and met his parents, wife, family and friends at the finish line in an emotional scene.

Speaking on behalf of the family, ­Tarquin’s wife Candice said Dennis was confident he would finish despite failing to do so last year.

“He tried it last year but took in too much water and he had to stop. This year he wanted to do it again — he was determined to finish the race. He trained very hard and he was feeling so confident about it.”

On Friday night, Dennis had told ­relatives he felt he could finish the race within 45 minutes and was upbeat at the start line.

“His friends swam in the groups ahead of him and he still said to them at the start line, ‘I’m going to catch you’.

“He was very strong-willed, determined and had very good values — he was a family man,” Candice said.

Candice said Dennis, an IT specialist based in Durban, was “beginning to settle down”, having just bought a house in the plush suburb of Morningside.

While this was the second consecutive year that a swimmer had gone missing during the event, Candice said she could not fault the way the situation had been handled.

“They’ve been amazing, so accommodating and very supportive. Jack Haskins [commander of the SAPS search and rescue unit] and Brad Glaspoole [Midmar Mile liaison] have been amazing.”

She said they still held out hope that Dennis would be found alive.

“We can’t accept that he’s gone until they’ve found him,” she said.

Candice used her Facebook page to update those who knew Dennis.

It was filled with comments of hope, “praying for a miracle” and wishing ­Dennis’s family strength.

According to Glaspoole, Dennis entered the water at 11.22 am on Saturday but was not recorded leaving from any of the three race exit points.

After being notified by concerned family and friends who were waiting for Dennis to finish the race, Glaspoole and the race organisers searched all the medical tents and surrounding areas for the missing swimmer. With no sign of Dennis on land, the SAPS search and rescue unit took over and the search was moved to the water after Saturday’s races were wrapped up. A search and rescue dog marked a spot around 200 metres from the race start and divers searched the area until poor weather conditions forced them out of the water.

The search was resumed at first light yesterday morning and lasted until 8 am, when the first race was due to start.

Divers were then taken out of the water for the morning, while the four main races proceeded slightly behind schedule.

Last year, Johannesburg businessman Thabo van Straten drowned while ­swimming on the Saturday. His body was found five days later.

• gareth.jenkinson@witness.co.za

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