'I wish I could just be his dad again' - father on 3rd birthday of toddler who drowned in sewer

2019-06-22 09:50
Shaygan Simon. (Facebook)

Shaygan Simon. (Facebook)

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Happy children had a ball at little Shaygan Simon's party. But his dad Damian Jantjies could barely crack a smile, devastated that his little boy couldn't enjoy the festivities planned for what would have been his 3rd birthday.

Shaygan drowned in April in an underground sewerage system after falling through a grass-covered hole next to a drain while walking home with his dad, with whom he was to spend the weekend.

"Three months down, a lifetime to go," a defeated Jantjies said on Friday.

"I wish that I could give him a hug today, just hold him and never let go. When I look at photos of him, I tear up. But those pics and the support of my family is what keeps me going."

His son's death is still surreal to him, Jantjies admits. 

Damian Jantjies with his son, Shaygan.

Damian Jantjies with his son, Shaygan. (Facebook)

The two had that day, just moments before tragedy struck, been collecting pebbles and tossing them into the canal as they strolled through Kleinvlei, on their way to neighbouring Greenfields. Throwing the stones and causing the splashes was one of the toddler's favourite things to do.

Jantjies had taken umpteen photos of his son that day. Dressed in a tracksuit reading "Awesome – Never Give Up", a laughing Shaygan seemed unaware of all the pics his dad had been taking.

He had been eating a packet of chips and ambling along when Jantjies last saw him. He had spotted an acquaintance, Bradwyn Kleyn, whom he had wanted to greet, but turned around when he realised that Shaygan was no longer alongside him.

He saw the little boy fall into the grass-covered hole and jumped in after him.

Underground, he tried to follow Shaygan's screams but the gushing water made it difficult to find him in the dark.

Rocks in the system stopped Shaygan from being swept away and allowed him to catch up to the toddler. He was unresponsive. Jantjies was unable to hold on for long owing to a strong current following heavy rains.

Kleyn had called for help and found Jantjies after hearing his screams.

A neighbour opened a drain upstream and helped the traumatised dad out.

Shaygan's little body washed out further up the canal.

Shaygan

Damian Jantjies at Shaygan's grave. (Facebook)

"I was amazed at how many people came to my boy's funeral. When I looked into the coffin, I saw how beautiful he was. He looked like he was sleeping, but he somehow didn't look like my Shaygie anymore," Jantjies said.

Friday, June 21 would have been the little football lover's 3rd birthday. Jantjies said the family had decided to celebrate, even though he was no longer there.

Shaygan's mother Simone had delivered party packets for all his little friends at the creche he had attended, while his grandmother held a birthday party at the Jantjies home amid a stormy Cape Town day.

While the events were meant to be celebratory, Jantjies battled through the day.

"My heart is crying. It's not a lekker feeling," he said.

"I wish he was here. I want to be around him, with him. I wish I could just be his dad again."

His photos of his laughing son is what he cherishes the most, Jantjies told News24. That, and Shaygan's favourite soccer-themed pyjamas that his dad keeps in a box in his bedroom.

"I will never get rid of it. He loved it."

Shaygan

A resident helped Damian Jantjies create a plastic drain cover baring Shaygan's face. (Supplied)

Jantjies said he is also no longer heartbroken when he passes the drain that swallowed his son.

A local resident helped him create a plastic drain cover baring Shaygan's face. This photo was one of the last one's his dad ever took of him.

"When I see it, I smile. He looks so beautiful. He will always be that beautiful boy to me."

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