Harties tragedy claims four lives
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.
TRAGEDY The gutted cruise boat