Girl rescued from septic tank dies

2012-04-25 12:24

Pietermaritzburg - A 5-year-old girl who was rescued after falling into a septic tank on Tuesday died while waiting for an ambulance. The incident occurred in the presence of municipal executives.

Sibahle Ndlovu was still alive when she was loaded into a municipal vehicle that happened to be at the scene, at Hopewell.

However, when an ambulance dispatched to fetch her met the vehicle on the way to Northdale Hospita - two hours after being called - paramedics pronounced the child dead.


Sibahle fell about two metres into the tank during break at the Isibani crèche and pre-school while staff were busy preparing food for the children.

“Sibahle had been jumping on the wooden lid that had been covering the tank,” said Ziphezinhle Mchunu, the daughter of the head of the crèche.

“It had become soft following recent rains,” she said.

The lid gave way and Sibahle fell in.

Million Shawe, who was working nearby, responded to calls for help.

“I was busy working fixing some shoes when I heard a woman come into the shop screaming for help,” said Shawe.

He found a ladder nearby, and went into the septic tank to try and rescue Sibahle.

“While I was in the tank, I felt a child’s arm. I then grabbed it and pulled her out.

“She was silent, but we could see that she was still spitting out some water,” he said.

At that stage, Sibahle was still alive, said Mchunu, who was angry that her second call for an ambulance was met with a rude response.

“They were very rude when I called them for a second time,” she said.

“We told them that the fire department had said to us that the child was still alive, and they suggested I take her to the hospital myself.”


The municipal vehicle was at the scene because uMgungundlovu District deputy mayor Fucwana Zungu happened to be meeting district councillor and mayoral executive committee member Angel Mchunu, who also runs the crèche.

Also at the meeting were Richmond mayor Andrew Ragavaloo and council speaker Thulani Shabalala.

Zungu suggested the vehicle take Sibahle to Northdale Hospital, said Ziphezinhle Mchunu.

Police and the fire brigade arrived once the child was out.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said police were investigating.

When asked about the late response of the ambulance, health department spokesperson Chris Maxon said he was unable to comment.

  • Marion - 2012-04-25 12:32

    Poor little mite, RIP. Condolences to friends and family. Begs the question "Why wasn't there a steel / strong cover over the tank?" Wood is totally unacceptable for covering something as dangerous as a septic tank.

      clinton.badenhorst - 2012-04-25 12:52

      What happened to the cast iron cover? When they installed the tank, surely they would have put a proper cover on? The crèche owner should have reported this to the local municipality ages ago... Like you said... Wood just will not do to cover that tank!

      Koos - 2012-04-25 12:57

      You will find that the lid, made out of cast iron was stolen and sold as scrap metal a long time ago.

      Koos - 2012-04-25 13:03

      Every you tried reporting something to the local municipality? Have the local municipality ever done anything to rectify anything except stealing taxpayers money?

      roberta.keeling - 2012-04-25 13:29

      @Koos - come to Cape Town - the municipality there attends to emergency matters chop chop!

      Greg - 2012-04-25 13:49

      A truly tragic tale, RIP...

      Justme - 2012-04-25 15:01

      @RobertKeeling - Not in the Helderberg

  • bluzulu - 2012-04-25 12:39

    So sad, condolences to the Family. This poor child has lost her life for just being a kid and playing outside.Poverty creates many dangers other kids never have to put up with. THIS F*K*N country must change, the kids are dying . And as for those civil servants that should have been there to help this little child sooner....They must be charged with manslaughter due to their incompetence. We have no future if we continue killing the Kids. This poverty must STOP now.

      Tanie - 2012-04-25 12:44

      Spot on blu, Economic freedom is called.

      Smile - 2012-04-25 13:23

      RIp @thecockTotaly disgusting you would bring politics into this, what is wrong with?

      Bianca - 2012-04-25 13:38

      Bluzulu the only time this country will change is of the government is changed the sad part is, is that the people of this once beautiful and properly run country keep voting the useless bunch back into power. Every year we pay higher taxes, petrol prices go up, electricity prices go up and who benefits only government employees and their families, the rest of us go from bad to worse.It is sad that our children have to pay the price because of the incompetence of the nuts we call our government.

      jbrandct - 2012-04-25 15:44

      bluzulu you were the one who brought politics into this, don't go asking other people to show some respect when you clearly don't.

  • Tanie - 2012-04-25 12:47

    A septic tank covered with a wooden lid, what a prank.Close that creche and arrest the owner or the manager for putting such a young life under life taking risks.

      Wisemad Mcmawle - 2012-04-25 15:03

      @thecock you are right 110% they must go to jail and get sued.

  • Koos - 2012-04-25 12:51

    Where was the blue light brigade when you need them?

      Darren - 2012-04-25 13:49

      you can find them on the M3 highway Cape Town…be sure to look carefully because they are really fast…if you know what I mean. RIP little princess.

  • sharon.truebodyvice - 2012-04-25 13:16

    To all who have stated that the ambulance officials be prosecuted .......get a life the government of the province or municipality must be held responsible, as for the drain cover charge the crims who stole it to buy food

  • sharon.truebodyvice - 2012-04-25 13:16

    RIP Lil one x

  • dewald.galjaard - 2012-04-25 13:36

    I wanted to say this is culpable homicide - which it is. But then I also do know that it would change nothing. So let me rather say this. It is a warning and it is very real. If this was my child you can be SURE I will hunt you down like the dogs you are and make you pay. And when I stand in front of you, don't say "It wasn't me!". It will help you as much as the daily complaints of ordinary citizens help them - nothing. It's time those in power are held accountable. RIP little one.

  • Gavin - 2012-04-25 14:37

    People in the service industry with attitudes of indifference need to get the F OUT ! Especially when as a result of your BS a child dies. If this was my child, you'd be splattered all over the nearest wall. This after the fact investigation attitude needs to be removed from the SA psyche and replaced with a 'how can I make the world safer NOW, not tomorrow or the day after - NOW' In SA we have a negative growth rate as far as our population is concerned. If we are to build a sustainable future, we need to stand guard over our children and do whatever is necessary to keep them safe and alive.

  • Jackie - 2012-04-25 14:53

    Once again incompetent medical treatment! Government departments = no service = mostly lazy staff. If you have to go to a government hospital you will see it takes hours and hours. I know there are large amounts of people but the problem is the staff that dont care. They drag their feet (literally) stare into space, eat, get tea anything but help the patients. Fire the bas@#$ds! There are sooo many unemployed people who would be happy to get a job and happy to WORK! This little girl was failed by all of them right up to Zuma

  • nicolettewill - 2012-04-25 15:14

    In an ideal world they would make it compulsory for every creche to have someone on the staff who has at least Level 2 First Aid. Even though the odds are against children in these situations and least she would have had a better chance if someone had performed CPR while waiting for the EMS.

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