Helper, child, 6, among five people who perished in Pretoria West house fire

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A house fire in Pretoria West left five people, including a six-year-old, dead on Wednesday. (Sesona Ngqakamba/News24)
A house fire in Pretoria West left five people, including a six-year-old, dead on Wednesday. (Sesona Ngqakamba/News24)
  • A helper died during the blaze that killed five people in Pretoria West on Friday.
  • The house owner managed to escape along with her three-year-old child. 
  • The families of both the helper and homeowner are devastated by the loss.

Family members of five people, including a six-year-old who perished during a house fire in the early hours of Wednesday in Pretoria West, are in shock and reeling from the tragedy.

Among the five who died was 41-year-old Willid Pheme, a helper at the home, along with the six-year-old and three men aged 18, 22 and 24.

News24 previously reported that Pheme was 46, but further investigations revealed that she was 41, authorities said. 

Pheme was a helper at the house and lived with the 45-year-old woman and her five children.

The owner managed to escape the blaze with her youngest child, aged three.

According to Tshwane Emergency Services, a call to respond to the fire was received at around 01:30.

On arrival, bystanders informed firefighters that five people were still trapped inside the house.

pretoria fire
A boy, three men and a woman died in the blaze.

The owner who escaped with the three-year-old was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene and transported to the Pretoria West Hospital, emergency services said.

'We relied on her'  

Pheme's brothers along with the homeowner's relatives were at the scene on Thursday morning struggling to hold back tears as Gauteng Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile briefed them about ongoing investigations concerning the fire.

The MEC also informed the families that they would be receiving social support from government.

Pheme's younger brother, Calvin, told News24 he was devastated by the tragedy.

Recalling the turn of events, Calvin said his younger sister called him on Wednesday morning and told him there were reports of a fire at the house where their elder sister worked.

They tried calling their sister, but her phone went unanswered.

READ | Five die as Pretoria house catches alight

Calvin said his younger sister then sent someone to the house. On arrival, the person found neighbours and authorities on scene and was told that two people were transported to the hospital and others had died.

The brother said he and his younger sister tried to locate their sister, hoping she was the one who was transported to hospital. They were later informed that she was among the five who died.

Pheme, from Limpopo, had been housekeeping at the family's home for about a year, Calvin said.

Her family told Maile that they wished to bury her in Limpopo and called for support from government with the arrangements.

Calvin said:

What has happened is really heartbreaking. We will always remember her for her efforts to make our family happy. We relied on her, and she brought joy to us.


Family already in mourning

Meanwhile, Kwena Dladla, the niece of the homeowner's late husband, said her family was also left in shock and disbelief - more so because they were still in mourning.

Dladla said they had buried her uncle recently and now they would bury his four children.

"I got a call from a cousin who stays in Delmas. She is far and because I stay in Mamelodi East, she asked me to [come] and check because she received a call from my uncle's wife that she is burning with the kids," Dladla said.

She added that her cousin informed her that her aunt was on her way to hospital.

Dladla said she proceeded to the hospital and found her aunt there.

"She [the aunt] told me that she just heard her four boys and the nanny screaming for help," she said.

Dladla added that her aunt reached out for help from neighbours, and she managed to escape through a window before being taken to hospital.

By then, the other five were already dead, she added.

"We are very traumatised. It is the first time in my life to experience this. We buried my uncle in July and so we are still mourning my uncle and now this happens. We are shocked. It is so sad," she said.

Dladla said she arrived at the scene at around 08:00 and police and other authorities had completed combing the scene and that the home's occupants had been removed.

Jeopardising investigation

Maile said details around what caused the fire were sketchy and law enforcement authorities were conducting preliminary investigations.

"We would want to urge everyone not to speculate on what has happened. What we know for sure is that this is a tragedy. It is very sad, and heartbreaking. We came here to convey our heartfelt condolences to both families of the helper and the siblings who passed on," Maile said.

Maile also said they would visit the mother and her child at the hospital to check up on them.

Officials from the City of Tshwane, SASSA and provincial disaster management accompanied Maile during the visit.  

ALSO READ | 'It would've been dad's birthday' - Cape Town family in mourning after parents, daughter, 8, die in fire

Speculation was rife that the fire may have been caused due to load shedding, but Maile said he would not be commenting on that because the police were handling the investigation.

He said the focus should be offering the survivors and their families psycho-social support and ensuring the deceased would have dignified funerals. 

Emergency services spokesperson Charles Mabaso said a "fire cause determination" had been conducted and fire services were working closely with the police. 

"This is considered a crime scene and we wouldn't want to narrow down the scope of the investigation. We want to keep it as wide as possible, not to miss valuable information that might jeopardise the investigation," Mabaso said. 

He added law enforcement agencies should be allowed to continue investigating and release information when necessary.

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