Search for missing Estcourt boy halted due to dangerous water levels

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A two day search for Sfiso Majola, 16 year-old, has been temporarily called off till Monday due to dangerous water levels of the Umtshezi river in the Nhlalakahle area, Estcourt. PHOTO: CLAUDINE SENEKAL/LADYSMITH HERALD
A two day search for Sfiso Majola, 16 year-old, has been temporarily called off till Monday due to dangerous water levels of the Umtshezi river in the Nhlalakahle area, Estcourt. PHOTO: CLAUDINE SENEKAL/LADYSMITH HERALD

A two day search for Sfiso Majola (16), was temporarily called off on Friday due to the dangerous level of the Umtshezi river in the Nhlalakahle area, Estcourt.

Sfiso, who is in The Grade 10, and two other friends had been at the river, collecting water and having a bath, when Sfiso lost his footing and was washed away by the strong current of the river, on Thursday.

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Sfiso was seen with his head above water for a few seconds and was then dragged under, not to be seen again.

“The two friends tried to run along the banks to see how they could reach Sfiso, but the water was too strong due to rain that had fallen in the area,” said a community member who was part of a group of people that had gathered along the banks of the river.

The witnesses called Estcourt police, who had called for Ladysmith SAPS K9 Search and Rescue unit.

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Witnesses told responding warrant officer Jaques Meyer from the Ladysmith SAPS K9 Search and Rescue unit, the river is usually low and calm allowing animals and people to collect water.

“Our area has been without water since Christmas in 2020 and Sfiso and his friends would head down to collect water for the homes,” said Richman Radebe.

Radebe said that he and Sfiso's family members have not slept since he was washed down the river.

Over 55 mm rain was reported to have fallen in the area and according to weather predictions more rain is expected in the catchment area until Saturday.

The community could not really understand why Search and Rescue had not started searching the water, but W/O Meyer explained that he would put his own life in danger and that of the other members of the SAPS if they entered the water.

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After a long walk and sweep of the banks of the river by Meyer, members of the Pietermaritzburg Search and Rescue Unit and police divers on Friday, the search was called off.

SAPS members explained that the water was too dangerous to enter and this would put the whole team at risk. “We will have to wait for the water to subside, before we can continue the search,” explained Meyer to the community.

Community members were also warned not to enter the water, try to cross or search the river for Sfiso as members of SAPS felt that the community would be placing their own lives in danger as well. The search will continue on Monday.

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