Har­ties tragedy claims four lives

CityPress - - News - STAFF RE­PORTER news@city­press.co.za

A woman burnt to death in the toi­let of a party boat on Hart­beespoort dam and an­other three drowned when the boat’s kitchen caught fire yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

The three women who drowned ap­par­ently pan­icked and jumped into the wa­ter when the fire broke out on the Prime Time cruiser shortly af­ter 3pm.

Hours af­ter the tragedy, a shocked Olivia Malepe, Pu­lane Xaba, Joyce Sothoane and Sa­bie Tsha­bal­ala stood on the wa­ter’s edge. One of their friends had been taken to hos­pi­tal.

“We were just a few friends who came for the boat ride. For fun. Most of the pas­sen­gers were em­ploy­ees of Tiger Brands who where hav­ing their year-end party. We did not know them,” Malepe said.

“We were sit­ting at the front of the boat and when we got to the mid­dle of the dam, we saw black smoke and huge flames.

“We were ter­ri­fied, be­cause we had nowhere to flee to,” Malepe said.

Mpeile Talana, po­lice spokesper­son, said the boat was ap­par­ently de­stroyed by an elec­tri­cal fire.

A guard of the wa­ter unit of Bid­vest Protea Coin, which han­dles se­cu­rity at Pe­can­wood Es­tate, raised the alarm when he saw smoke and flames on the deck of the boat.

John Ma­soga, team leader of the wa­ter unit, said they could only fit three peo­ple onto their boat at a time. “We raced back and forth,” he said. Jerry Grant, owner of Sun­shine Cruises, also helped trans­port pas­sen­gers from the stricken boat.

Other boats in the area helped res­cue Prime Time’s pas­sen­gers.

Prime Time is 25m long and can carry 190 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site. The boat has an up­per deck with a bar, dance floor and lounge and is open on the sides for sight­see­ing.

Ma­soga said one of the res­cue boats took the three bod­ies back to shore.

“The woman who was found in the toi­let prob­a­bly tried to hide from the fire,” he said.

His team man­aged to ex­tin­guish the blaze. “For­tu­nately it was only adults and not chil­dren. It was very bad,” he said.

Late yes­ter­day af­ter­noon the boat was brought ashore at Kos­mos for the po­lice to start their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

PHOTO: HART­BEESPOORT EMER­GENCY RES­CUE UNIT

TRAGEDY The gut­ted cruise boat

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