Jukskei River baptism: Death toll climbs to 15, rescuers still looking for missing infant

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  • Johannesburg Emergency Medical Services has recovered the body of a 15th congregant who drowned in the Jukskei River at the weekend. 
  • EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi says the search and rescue team will resume the search for a missing three-month-old baby on Thursday.
  • The infant is one of three members from the same family who drowned during a baptism ceremony. 

Johannesburg Emergency Medical Services (EMS) recovered the body of a 15th person who was part of a group of congregants swept away during a baptism ceremony at the weekend, said spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi on Wednesday. 

The search and rescue crew will resume the search for a three-month-old infant, who was unaccounted for, on Thursday.

"We hope that if luck is on our side, we will recover the baby and give the family closure," Mulaudzi said. 

He could not confirm the infant's gender.

Mulaudzi said the baby, believed to be dead, had at the time been with its three-year-old sibling and grandmother, whose bodies were both retrieved. 

"The child is the third missing person from the same family." 

He said 33-year-old Thokozani Sibanda, whose family said her picture was not among those of congregants shown at the mortuary, had also been found.

READ | Jukskei River baptism drownings: Pastor of informal 'church' goes to ground

"They couldn't find her at the mortuary, and they had gone to look at hospitals where they couldn't find her. They returned to the mortuary and found her. This means the 15 people who were reported missing have been found, except for the three-month-old." 

The congregants were swept away on Saturday during a baptism ceremony.

Their pastor allegedly used the river to perform rituals for congregants who came to him for consultation.

Mulaudzi said the search for the group went quicker than usual, which he attributed to the joint efforts by the police and EMS. 

"It normally takes eight to nine days to recover bodies, but this one was quick. We managed to recover two bodies on the first day.

"On the second day, we did extremely well because we recovered 12 bodies on the same day, and today, we have retrieved one. We have helped the families find closure," he added. 

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