Youth centre fire probe reveals that kids may have been trapped in their rooms

2016-07-14 18:00
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PICS: 8 killed in deadly youth centre blaze

Seven children and one adult perished in a fire at a youth centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Services confirmed. View photos here.

Durban - The focal point of a police investigation into the fire which claimed the lives of eight young people is to determine whether or not they were unable to escape the fire and died locked inside their bedrooms.

Fire gutted a cottage at the Lakehaven Child and Youthcare Centre in Sea Cow Lake in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Several police sources with key knowledge of the investigation, who cannot be named, said preliminary investigations suggested that the eight had been trapped inside the cottage.

Ten others who were inside the cottage at the time managed to escape.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Thulani Zwane said that an inquest docket was opened at Newlands for further investigation, an indication that foul play was not suspected.

News24 can reveal that:

• The exterior security gate was locked and had to be forced open;
• All windows which could be opened were heavily burglar guarded;
• The fire extinguisher and hose reel stood untouched in the passageway of the cottage, with all eight bodies found in separate rooms.

Three sources, independent of one another, confirmed that they had entered the house and saw that the fire hose and extinguisher remained on the wall, untouched.

The cottage was gutted by the blaze, which spread quickly through the aging structure.

Cause of fire being investigated

The bodies, mostly charred beyond recognition, were found under fallen roof tiles and debris from the collapsing structure.

So intense was the blaze that the floorboards of the house were incinerated.

"With the house being as old as it was and with everything sealed up, the fire would have moved through there incredibly fast. If someone didn't do anything to put it out within a minute, it was all over," a source said.

The cause of the blaze remains the subject of a full investigation.

According to a profile on the Child Welfare Durban and District website, the centre is registered to cater for the needs of 60 children between the ages of 6 and 18 years who are "abused, neglected and abandoned".

"All our children are placed at the centre through a court order. Our aim is to provide children at risk with an environment that is stimulating, motivating and equip them with skills to become self-sufficient and positive leaders in the future," it reads.

Attempts to contact centre spokesperson Shehnaaz Gabru were unsuccessful at the time of publishing.

Read more on:    police  |  fires

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