Triple drowning

2010-11-15 00:00

A TRANQUIL family day out on a hired kayak in the St Michael’s lagoon near Port Shepstone ended in tragedy on Saturday when it capsized and three children of a prominent ANC family in the area drowned.

In sunny conditions at around lunchtime on Saturday, the Shelly Beach National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was called out when the kayak capsized in the lagoon with six people on board.

Three adults made their way to the banks of the lagoon, but three girls were reported missing.

Local lifeguards found a girl aged 17 and a three-year-old girl at the scene within a matter of minutes, a rescue dive team recovered the body of a seven-year-old girl at around 5.15 pm.

All three were declared dead at the scene.

The children are those of Mthokozi and Winnie Mbili.

Mthokozi is the regional organiser of the ANC in the lower South Coast. His wife Winnie is the human settlements and infrastructure manager at the Hibiscus Coast municipality.

The girls who drowned are Sinqobile (3), Zamambile (7) and Zinhlanhla Mbili (17).

It is believed that their mother stayed at home on Saturday with the couple’s remaining child, a one-month-old baby.

It is unclear what had caused the boat to capsize.

Lieutenant-Colonel Zandra Wiid, communications officer for the police in Port Shepstone, confirmed that an inquest docket has been opened.

Wiid said the police had collected the boat to examine whether it is safe for public use.

Wayne Harlen, NSRI Shelly Beach deputy station commander, raised issues of safety after the incident.

“A representative of the company that hired out the canoe allegedly claimed that all six people — the three adults, the teenager and both children — had been wearing life jackets when the canoe departed on the paddle,” he said.

“All three recovered bodies were found without life jackets and this will form part of the inquiry.”

The NSRI has since released a statement urging people launching crafts into the water to wear life jackets at all times.

“It is imperative that life jackets are SABS approved and have adequate strapping around the front and through the legs, and that all connections are properly fastened and secured,” said the statement.

“Children should wear a properly fitting, children’s-sized life jacket; a child wearing an adult life-jacket may be at greater risk,” the insitute added.

The manager of Jolly Boats, the company responsible for renting out the boat to the family, Chad Viljoen, said all of the occupants of the kayak were wearing life jackets.

“Our employee has said that he even helped put on their life jackets, with the little girl wearing one made specifically for youngsters,” he said.

“The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) has approved all of our boats and life jackets.”

One life jacket was found floating in the lagoon after the incident.

It is believed that the surviving adults have claimed that they were not issued with life jackets, but this could not be confirmed yesterday.

The ANC regional secretary for the South Coast, Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, yesterday confirmed the names of the deceased.

Wiid said the names would be officially released today, after procedural identifications have taken place.

Hibiscus Coast municipal manager Sbu Mkhize said yesterday that people were calling at the family’s home yesterday to offer prayers and comfort.

“It’s very sad. The family are obviously taking it very hard. These are difficult times.”

Mkhize said the funeral will take place next weekend.

He expressed appreciation to the police, who he said worked tirelessly to retrieve the bodies.

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