Eastern Cape police probing school fire that killed disabled man, injured 3 others

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A school classroom has been destroyed by fire.
A school classroom has been destroyed by fire.
Mduduzi Ndzingi, Gallo Images, Sowetan
  • A physically disabled man was burnt to death while three others were injured after a special needs school in Eastern Cape caught fire a week ago.
  • The fire broke out at around 10:00 last Friday after one of the boys knocked over a paraffin heater.
  • The pupil who knocked down the heater was allegedly pushed by another pupil. 

A physically disabled man was burnt to death while three others are reportedly fighting for their lives at hospitals after a classroom at a special needs school in the Eastern Cape caught fire a week ago.

READ | Cape Town crèche evacuated after fire breaks out

The fire broke out at around 10:00 last Friday after a pupil apparently knocked over a paraffin heater. 

The pupil who knocked over the heater was allegedly pushed by another pupil. 

The fire, which claimed the life of 20-year-old wheelchair-bound Ncubeko Ntloko, happened at Masibambane Home for the Disabled in Debe Nek in the Amahlathi Local Municipality.   

Ntloko died of severe burn wounds at Victoria Hospital in Alice later that day.

READ | It was 'apocalyptic, like a scene from a movie' - UCT students traumatised after fire, evacuation

Teacher was present

His mother, Nandipha Ntloko, 43, said she found it hard to believe the school had reported a teacher was present during the incident.

"Logically thinking, the fire would not have killed my son and injured so many boys if the teacher was in class supervising the children," added Nandipha.

The principal of the school, Kholeka Songwiqi, promised to give comment to News24 but failed to do so. Her phone rang unanswered for the greater part of Thursday.

Nandipha said she was informed by the school up to five other boys were hospitalised with burn wounds. 

PICS | Four North West schools torched in suspected arson attack

Eastern Cape police said three people were injured and a 20-year-old had succumbed to his injuries.

Police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni said a case of culpable homicide had been opened. 

Nandipha said doctors had noticed that at the age of 6 months, her son was disabled after he struggled to sit on his own.

He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention describes as a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move, maintain balance or posture.

"Ever since he was born, I have been in and out of hospitals with this child. I loved him so much. He was everything in my life. I am completely heartbroken. I am struggling to come to terms with this. I don't know how I will get the strength to move forward from this." 

Ntloko will be buried on Tuesday at his Nywarha Village home in Willowvale.

His father died in 2004 when he was only 3 years old, said Nandipha. 

"My child's soul will not be restored no matter what I do or say. I don't have strength to fight the school and demand answers but I truly suspect that the children were unsupervised when this fire broke out and went to an extent of engulfing the classroom."

Eastern Cape Department of Social Development MEC Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi said she had dispatched social workers to offer counselling to affected families.

"This is patently devastating and tragic news. It is even much more painful when it has impacted on the most treasured and vulnerable members of our society - children with physical disabilities.

"As a department, we have dispatched our teams to provide psycho-social support to families. We send our deepest condolences to the family of the deceased child and wish a speedy recovery to the injured children," added Mani-Lusithi.

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