‘Mam­mie, co­me fe­tch me, p­le­a­se!

Preg­nant wo­man who died in fi­re had a fo­re­bo­ding – wan­ted to re­turn ho­me a week be­fo­re the fi­re

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - S­te­fan Goo­sen

Eig­ht pe­op­le, two hou­se­holds, one fa­mi­ly. That is part of the bit­ter toll the re­cent Gar­den Rou­te fi­res took on 29 Oc­to­ber w­hen fla­mes en­gul­fed parts of Far­leigh, ne­ar Ka­ra­ta­ra out­si­de Knys­na.

A­mong t­he­se eig­ht fa­mi­ly mem­bers we­re two wo­men, one of them eig­ht mont­hs preg­nant, and six child­ren be­t­ween the a­ges of 11 mont­hs and 12-y­e­ars-old.

Three of the child­ren who succum­bed to the fi­re we­re Na­ta­niel Oelf ’s own daug­h­ters a­ged fi­ve y­e­ars, three y­e­ars and 11 mont­hs re­specti­ve­ly. His 12-y­e­ar-old and 13-month-old nie­ces, and his two-y­e­ar-old nep­hew we­re al­so a­mong the fa­mi­ly mem­bers lost to the fi­re. The 21-y­e­ar-old preg­nant wo­man was car­rying Oelf’s brot­her’s c­hild.

Be­si­des being up­set a­bout the de­ce­a­sed’s p­ho­tos being pu­blis­hed wit­hout their per­mis­si­on, Oelf told Knys­na-P­lett He­rald on F­ri­day 2 No­vem­ber at the back­pac­kers w­he­re he and sur­vi­ving fa­mi­ly mem­bers are cur­rent­ly being hou­sed, that he still feels s­trong.

‘I’m not bro­ken yet’

“I’m not bro­ken yet, I’m trying to stay s­trong for the rest. It’s as though my he­art ha­sn’t accep­ted w­hat has hap­pe­ned alt­hough my mind knows t­hey ha­ve all go­ne,” he said, des­cri­bing the sur­re­al si­tu­a­ti­on.

Ac­cor­ding to Oelf the fa­mi­ly’s Chris­ti­an be­liefs are hel­ping them to work through the or­de­al, and as a fa­mi­ly t­hey are stan­ding to­get­her. Mar­lin Oelf, one of the sur­vi­ving fa­mi­ly mem­bers, ad­ded that crying has hel­ped a lot. “It’s good to cry and to re­le­a­se tho­se e­mo­ti­ons. It helps to cle­ar the he­ad,” he said.

W­hi­le the fa­mi­ly was a­wai­ting DNA test re­sults on the re­mains of their lost on­es in or­der to gi­ve e­ach a pro­per bu­ri­al, Oelf said at the ti­me, the­re are ma­ny que­s­ti­ons that need ans­we­ring a­round w­hat hap­pe­ned. “It is ex­tre­me­ly hard to accept w­hat hap­pe­ned, and u­naccep­ta­ble that ni­ne fa­mi­ly mem­bers (in­clu­ding the un­born c­hild) could pass a­way in such a tra­gic way. But be­cau­se we want to ho­nour our fa­mi­ly and mourn them pro­per­ly we don’t want to fo­cus on accu­sa­ti­ons or ap­por­ti­on bla­me at the mo­ment,” the grie­ving fat­her said.

Oelf was at work on the fa­te­ful day, and could not shed much lig­ht on w­hat his fa­mi­ly mem­bers mig­ht ha­ve go­ne through. He went to work that mor­ning – at that point, he said, the fi­re had al­re­a­dy been bur­ning for al­most a week, al­beit far from their ho­me at that sta­ge.

Des­pe­ra­te calls ho­me

Be­t­ween 11:00 and noon on 29 Oc­to­ber, the wind star­ted picking up and he pho­ned his un­cle, a Sanparks em­ploy­ee. “W­hen the wind di­recti­on chan­ged to­wards Far­leigh I cal­led to check how the fi­re was doing and if my pla­ce was o­kay,” Oelf said.

He said the fi­re re­a­ched Far­leigh be­t­ween 14:45 and 15:45 la­ter that day. Af­ter a few des­pe­ra­te calls ho­me and ar­ri­ving at the sce­ne he found that his fat­her and brot­her had al­most kil­led them­sel­ves trying to res­cue the no­w­de­ce­a­sed fa­mi­ly mem­bers.

For the preg­nant wo­man And­rea Be­wee’s mot­her Mo­ni­ca Lou­rens, the loss of her first­born, a grand­daug­h­ter (13-month-old) and un­born gran­d­child is beyond com­pre­hen­si­on. Be­wee was li­ving with her boyf­riend in Far­leigh, Lou­rens said. A few mi­nu­tes in­to the in­ter­view Lou­rens burst in­to te­ars, o­ver­w­hel­med by sor­row.

“My daug­h­ter was a gent­le per­son and would ha­ve sa­cri­fi­ced a­ny­thing for her litt­le daug­h­ter and un­born c­hild. She ne­ver poin­ted fin­gers and was ne­ver ar­gu­men­ta­ti­ve,” Lou­rens said. Be­wee had re­cent­ly been em­ploy­ed at Pick n Pay in Sed­ge­field, Lou­rens ad­ded.

Ac­cor­ding to Lou­rens her daug­h­ter wan­ted to and was sup­po­sed to “co­me back ho­me” a week be­fo­re the bla­ze, “but due to cer­tain ci­r­cum­stan­ces we couldn’t go fe­tch her”.

“T­hin­king a­bout it now it is as though she had a fo­re­bo­ding so­mething was going to hap­pen. On the day of the fi­res she cal­led me: ‘Mam­mie, co­me fe­tch me, the hou­se next door is bur­ning’. By the ti­me we got the­re it was all o­ver,” Lou­rens said.

Would you li­ke to help?

A­nyo­ne who would li­ke to help can con­tact Va­nes­sa on 084 443 2872 or Leslie on 061 031 4102 to find out mo­re.

P­ho­to: S­te­fan Goo­sen P­ho­to: Sup­p­lied by mot­her, Mo­ni­ca Lou­rens

The 21-y­e­ar-old And­rea Be­wee and her 13-month-old daug­h­ter A­liy­ah Oelf, who sur­com­bed in one of the bur­ning Far­leigh ho­mes.

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