Cape Town refinery blast: Memorial to be held for two engineers

Two people died after a massive explosion at a Milnerton refinery in Cape Town.
Two people died after a massive explosion at a Milnerton refinery in Cape Town.
Jan Ras
  • The dead have been named as two young chemical engineers.
  • Both graduated at CPUT in Cape Town - now mourned by fellow-graduates and the university community.
  • Company says a memorial planned for this week.

The two people who died in the explosion at the fuel refinery in Cape Town have been named.

They were two young chemical engineers: Mpilo Sibiya, 32, and Likhona Vece, 27.

The explosion rocked the plant shortly after 04h00 on 2 July, at the sprawling plant in Milnerton, north of the city centre.

Chemical engineers killed in refinery blast
Likhona Vece, 27.

Chemical engineers killed in refinery blast
Mpilo Sibiya, 32.

Astron Energy CEO Jonathan Molapo said in a statement on Monday: "The entire company is in deep distress at the loss of these two young and talented chemical engineers and we will continue to provide the necessary support to their families."

The company's media office reported: "Of the seven admitted to hospital, six have been released and one remains in a stable condition. Medical support and counselling have been made available to anyone impacted by the incident."

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), posted on its "Alumni/Convocation" page on Facebook: "It is with sadness that we learn the deadly fire that broke out at the Astron Energy SA refinery in Milnerton before dawn on Thursday, 2 July 2020, claimed the lives of 2 of our Engineering alumni. Mr Mpilo Sibiya graduated with his BTech in Chemical Engineering in 2016. He was only 32 years old.

"Ms Likhona Vece graduated with a BTech in Chemical Engineering in 2015. She would have turned 28 on 8th November 2020. The Faculty of Engineering & Built Environment as well as the Department of Chemical Engineering convey deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues at Astron and CPUT.

"The country has been robbed of young and promising engineers. May their souls rest in peace," the educational institution said.


Astron reported a memorial service would take place at the Astron Energy Milnerton refinery this week.

On the physical impact of the explosion, the company said there was "no threat to fuel supplies because of this incident".

"A post-incident risk assessment has been conducted and there is no health risk to the communities surrounding the refinery. The overall plant remains stable. The affected area is barricaded and we continue to have support from the local authorities."

And on the origin of the blast, the company reported: "Astron Energy is committed to a full investigation of the incident, in co-operation with all the relevant authorities, to learn the cause and to take steps to prevent any re-occurrence of this tragic event."

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