Remember their lives, says Ezemvelo boss of drowned rangers

2012-06-27 00:00

THE families of two rangers who drowned in a Zululand lake will begin preparing for their funerals after both bodies were positively identified yesterday.

Police divers recovered the remains of Mbazwani Mhlongo (57) yesterday, a day after the body of his colleague Phumlani Mthembu (34) was retrieved from Lake Nhlabane, just north of Richard’s Bay.

A relative of Mthembu’s said yesterday his family was distraught.

“They are trying to cope, but they are not doing very well,” said 40-year-old Thembinkosi Ndlazi, whose father was Mthembu’s cousin.

Ndlazi added the family relied almost solely on Mthembu’s salary.

“He was the breadwinner,” Ndlazi said, confirming the funeral was scheduled for Sunday.

Mhlongo’s family could not be reached.

The men drowned on Friday afternoon after they attempted to paddle a dugout canoe across the lake.

They had confiscated the homemade vessel — thought to belong to illegal fishermen — while patrolling the area with two other colleagues, who had walked to a rendezvous point and never saw the pair again.

A police chopper was used in the subsequent search and located the capsized canoe on Monday. Divers found Mthembu in the vicinity soon after.

The search resumed yesterday morning and it wasn’t long before Mhlongo’s body was found.

Lieutenant Jack Haskins of the PMB K9 search and rescue unit said the second set of remains had drifted to the surface.

“We found [Mhlongo] about eight metres from where the canoe was.”

The bodies were taken to the police mortuary in Richard’s Bay where postmortems were scheduled to be performed.

Although cause of death has not been formally established, authorities said the drownings appear to have been accidental.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the provincial conservation body the men worked for, said it would foot the bill for all the funeral costs.

Spokesperson Musa Mntambo said yesterday they were contracting funeral parlours to take care of arrangements.

Mhlongo’s body will be taken to his home in Mkhuze and Mthembu’s remains will be taken to KaNgwanase.

Ezemvelo CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize paid tribute to the men while offering condolences to the families.

“We are deeply saddened by your loss. We trust that we will all cherish the times we spent with the two of our departed colleagues.

“May we remember not just that they died, but that they lived.”

Mhlongo was named Best Field Ranger last year by Mkhize.


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