Durban - After being swept away in a flood almost a year ago, Durban North resident Brenda Scriven has officially been declared dead.
Her daughter, Lindy-Leigh Swales, wiped tears from her eyes in the Durban High Court on Tuesday when Judge Nompumelelo Radebe granted a final order which would now permit the family to wrap up her financial affairs.
Judge Radebe described the case as "special and extraordinary".
"This is not setting a precedent. But the circumstances of this case are so unique there is no necessity to wait the usual seven years.
"The deceased died in circumstances which were well known around Durban."
She said the family's loss must have been a very painful experience.
"She was washed away and we can only hope that somehow, somewhere, her remains will be found," she said, ruling that Scriven had indeed died on July 25 last year.
Swales, on behalf of the extended family and friends, launched the court application last month, securing an interim order which had to be advertised in the local press for any interested parties to come forward.
No one responded.
In her affidavit, Swales described in detail the efforts taken to find her mother alive or dead after she disappeared while driving home from work at Natal Portland Cement - just four days before she was to go on early retirement.
Scriven was caught in a massive storm that afternoon. When she did not arrive home, the family received a message from a local community group member that a car matching hers had been found unoccupied at an intersection on Old North Coast Road.
Her laptop, handbag and cellphone were inside.
CCTV footage showed that she got out of her car at the intersection after apparently 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," Swales said.
The search for Scriven continued for almost a month but her body was never found.
Swales said her mother was happy, and positive about her future and had no reason to abscond.
"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.
The family held a memorial service for Scriven in August last year.