Declare my mom dead, says grieving daughter

2017-06-08 12:22
Brenda Scriven (62), the woman missing in KZN. (Supplied)

Brenda Scriven (62), the woman missing in KZN. (Supplied)

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Durban - Eleven months after Durban North resident Brenda Scriven was washed away in flood waters, her family has taken the heart-breaking decision to begin the legal process to have her declared dead.

In an affidavit her daughter, Lindy-Leigh Swales, describes in painstaking detail the efforts taken to find her 62-year-old mother alive or dead after she disappeared while driving home from work on Monday, July 25, 2016.

This was four days before she was to go on early retirement.

The affidavit forms part of a court application, brought by advocate Warren Shapiro before KwaZulu-Natal in Durban High Court Judge Nompumelelo Radebe on Thursday.

Swales obtained an order giving anyone with an interest in the matter until July 12 to oppose a final declaration of Scriven's presumed death.

READ: Search for Brenda Scriven continues

Massive storm

Radebe said she hoped this "very sad event" would come to an end on that day, for the family's sake.

Swales said she had the support of her entire family, including her aunts, her sisters, her grandmother and her mother's life partner, Lance Ethell.

Her mother and Ethell lived in a granny flat on her property in Sunningdale.

A day before she disappeared, her mother, who worked at Natal Portland Cement, had spoken excitedly about her planned early retirement and being able to spend time with her grandchildren and enjoy her garden.

"She left work at about 4pm [16:00] and took her usual route home. She last spoke to Lance at about 5pm [17:00]."

The massive storm broke that afternoon. In the next 24 hours, 162mm of rain fell, a record for Durban in July.

"When my mom had not reached home by 5.30pm [17:30], we became worried. An hour later I received a WhatsApp message from a Sunningdale community member that a car matching the one my mom had been driving had been found, unoccupied, at an intersection on Old North Coast Road."

Her laptop, handbag and cellphone were inside. There was no sign of Scriven. CCTV footage obtained from a local business showed her getting out at the intersection, apparently after experiencing mechanical failure.

"She got out, walked to the back of the car and then returned to the driver's side. She then lost her footing in the rapidly flowing water, attempted to stand up and then fell again. She was swept away in what appears to be a river of water. She can be seen being swept away down the road before exiting the camera shot."

Raging flood waters

Swales said the force of the water swept a garbage skip across the road, which ploughed through a crash barrier into a ravine which leads into the Umgeni River.

"It is probable that Brenda was also swept into the ravine and that her body is either buried under collapsed sand or has been swept out to sea."

The search for Scriven continued for almost a month and included teams of policemen and hundreds of volunteers. Police and privately-owned helicopters and planes joined the search.

Firemen removed collapsed rocks and searched a 2km tunnel.

Warrant Officer David Steyn, commander of the police's search and rescue unit, said it was unlikely Scriven would have survived the raging flood waters.

Swales said the family held a memorial service for Scriven in August.

"Brenda was an extremely positive woman and was happy with her life. Her and Lance were planning a trip to Cape Town and had plans to renovate the cottage.

"She was close to us all and kept in daily contact. She was very close to her friends as well. She was getting her provident pay-out and had very little debt. She had everything to look forward to and no reason to abscond.

"I have been advised that applications of this nature are seldom granted after the lapse of such a short period of time since the disappearance of a person.

"But in these circumstances, there can be no other rational or probable explanation for her silence since July 25 last year and it is virtually certain that she died shortly after being swept away," Swales said.

Read more on:    durban  |  weather  |  floods

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