He started looking around already in January last year for a place to spend their summer holiday.
Some months later Danie de Wet found a suitable holiday home at Reebok, near Kleinbrak in the Western Cape. But the family’s beach holiday had hardly started when everything went up in smoke.
Danie, an engineering supervisor and accomplished marathon runner from Carletonville in North-West, made headlines five years ago when he miraculously survived a mining accident during which his body was penetrated by a 1,8-metre crowbar.
Danie, his wife Lizl, their children Danie (9), Elandie (13) and Danelle (15), as well as Lizl’s sister Bertha Robbertse, left Carletonville on 21 December, super-excited about their break down in the Western Cape, Danie tells us.
“We slept over in Colesberg on the first night,” he says about their trek to the coast. “The next day we drove to Kleinbrak. We got there around half past one in the afternoon. We jumped into the shower and then went to town to do shopping.”
Danie and his family drove to Mossel Bay in high spirits, the kids went to say “hi” to the sea at Diaz beach and they also called at Hartenbos before returning to their rented holiday house.
Back at the house, and with Christmas just days away, Danie and Lizl let the kids open one of their Christmas presents. The couple surprised them with the latest Monopoly-botd game, which comes complete with a card machine.
“The kids went to sit in the open-plan kitchen to figure out the game. I started making a fire in the built-in braai on the patio,” Danie tells us.
When he went into the house to check if the kids were sorted with their new board game, Lizl said she smelt something like plastic burning, but Danie felt sure that the smell came from somewhere outside.
“As I walked back and got to the door (of the patio), something told me stop. There was a strange sound coming from the roof. Flames do make a kind of sound . . . at that moment the power suddenly went off. I turned round and told Lizl the house was on fire . . .”
Moments later smoke started pouring into the house. Everyone jumped up, grabbed whatever they could and rushed outside.
“There were smoke and flames. Everything was happening very quickly because it’s a wooden house.”
Neighbours across the road ran out and tried to help. Danie and another neighbour turned back to tackle the blaze with a hosepipe and fie extinguisher.
“I jumped onto the patio table to make a hole in the ceiling to try put out the fire, but the table broke and I stepped right through the wooden floor. I was trying to spray water into the roof with the hosepipe.
"Then we heard people shouting that we should get out because one of the bedrooms was also on fire.
“Things were very confused,” recalls Danie, who tried to save what he could as he ran out of the house.
“The fire brigade was there in 10 minutes. They were very professional and did their thing. They were able to save some of our clothes.”
The fire was eventually put out and although most of the wooden structure remains standing, half of the house was destroyed in the blaze.
The family stayed over with friends in the area that night. “But we didn’t get much sleep,” Danie tells us.
“The kids’ Christmas presents were all gone, but that’s worldly stuff.”
The next evening they stayed with another friend in Albertinia, after which they set out on the road back to Carletonville.
“At first I tried to phone around to get us another place to stay, but by then you’re no longer in such an upbeat mood. And everywhere was booked up anyway.”
En route home Danie asked his brother to get their three kids some new Christmas gifts. “So at least there’d be something when we got home, for us to enjoy Christmas Eve.”
Danie says they were overwhelmed by the kind gestures and support they received from people in both Kleinbrak and Carletonville.
“In Carletonville the community also supported us and brought us gifts. But on Christmas Eve we probably were in bed by 20:00 we were so exhausted.”
A few days later friends invited them to join them at Ramsgate on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.
“I knew the kids had to get away for a while. So then we were able to just relax a bit.”
The exact cause of the blaze is still being investigated, Danie says.
And as Danie did during the crowbar incident in 2015, he’s inspired his family so they’re tackling 2020 with renewed hope.
He’s also planning the run the Comrades ultra-marathon again this year.
“I told them we’re not going to let this get us down. And on Christmas day I told my wife our biggest gift was the fact that the whole family could be together. Together we’re strong.”