Holiday turns to tragedy

2015-11-10 16:10
Shane, Danpaul and Queenie Naidoo drowned at Zimbali beach at the weekend. Sarnia (in graduation gown) is the only surviving member.

Shane, Danpaul and Queenie Naidoo drowned at Zimbali beach at the weekend. Sarnia (in graduation gown) is the only surviving member. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - An idyllic lunchtime family stroll on the beach ended in tragedy for a ­Pietermaritzburg family when three of them died after being struck by waves near Zimbali at the weekend.

Sarnia Naidoo (25) was about to take a picture of her parents and sister when a series of freak waves pulled them out to sea.

Naidoo, the only surviving member, had taken her family on holiday to celebrate her father’s 65th birthday on Saturday when tragedy struck.

Speaking to The Witness, family spokesperson Ronnie Govender said his sister Queenie (63), brother-in-law Danpaul (65) and niece Shane (39) were posing for a ­picture when a wave knocked them over.

“Sarnia had surprised her father with a holiday at Zimbali to celebrate his birthday. They were having a wonderful time and we all called to wish him a happy birthday … he sounded so happy.

“After lunch they decided to go for a walk on the beach and that’s when it happened,” said Govender.

Sarnia decided to take a photo of her family while they walked along the shore.

“They were not swimming and they stood for the photo and a wave hit them so hard that it dropped them to their knees. Sarnia said it wasn’t too bad but another wave hit them as they were trying to get up and the waves kept coming,” said Govender.

Speaking on behalf of the family as Sarnia was too emotional to speak, Govender said his niece threw her phone to the ground and ran to help her family after seeing they were in distress.

“Sarnia managed to help her father up and she told him to run while she helped the ­others, but Dan refused to leave his wife and girls. He was sucked back into the water when another wave hit,” Govender said.

He said that Sarnia was pushed back to the shore while trying to help her sister. She then ran off to get help, but it was too late. Govender said nobody was around to assist and Sarnia ran for about a kilometre before she returned with help.

“She brought back help, but when she ­returned, all three of them were lying on the sand, unconscious,” he said.

Danpaul, who worked for Nestle until he retired, and Queenie, who ran the tuckshop at Raisethorpe High School, were declared dead at the scene.

Shane was airlifted to Netcare Alberlito Hospital and was admitted into the ICU.

She was declared brain-dead and her ­organs failed at around 8 pm that night. ­Sarnia was under heavy sedation at the same hospital during this time.

Govender said his sister and brother-in-law were “humble and caring” and were seen as the elders in the family.

“The family was very close-knit. It was ­always the four of them. They could not live without each other. My brother-in-law ­represented everything in the Naidoo family and was the pillar of strength for all of us. In fact, in times like this, he would be the one making the arrangements,” said ­Govender. He added that the family was left “completely shattered” by their deaths.

“We just cannot believe it. It is unreal and to see Sarnia in the state that she is … she is heartbroken,” he said.

Govender said the family had received ­immense support from paramedics, doctors, family and strangers.

“I want to thank Cara Brent who heard about what happened and tracked us down to the hospital. We didn’t know her but she came to the hospital and just cried with us and hugged us. It is so amazing to know that there are people like her among us,” he ­added.

The funeral service for Danpaul, Queenie and Shane will take place today at Truro Hall from 10 am, and will proceed to the Clare Estate Crematorium at 1.30 pm.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  tragedy  |  drowning

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