Sor­row re­lived as bod­ies of church vic­tims ar­rive

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - CARLO PETERSEN, MOLOKO MOLOTO AND MPILETSO MOTUMI

AFTER the or­deal of watch­ing his wife die be­fore his eyes, a sur­vivor of the Nige­rian church build­ing col­lapse that claimed 85 South African lives is re­lieved her body is home.

An­thony van der Byl, who was trapped un­der rub­ble after the church guest house of the Synagogue Church of all Na­tions col­lapsed in La­gos two months ago, could do noth­ing but watch as his wife suc­cumbed to her in­juries. A to­tal of 116 peo­ple died. Fam­i­lies ex­pressed re­lief yes­ter­day even as their sor­row was re­vived with the ar­rival of the re­mains.

Van der Byl, 47, and his wife Louise, 51, had been mar­ried for 12 years and had two chil­dren. The cou­ple, from The Crags, Plet­ten­berg Bay, joined oth­ers for the pil­grim­age.

On Sun­day, the re­mains of 74 South Africans ar­rived at Wa­ter- kloof Air Force Base.

“We were sit­ting in the din­ing area. There was a sud­den deaf­en­ing ex­plo­sion and a big wall col­lapsed. There was scream­ing. We couldn’t even take two steps, the whole build­ing crashed on us.

“Her last words were to keep on pray­ing and then she was gone. I had to look at her for 25 hours be­fore be­ing res­cued,” Van der Byl said.

In Polok­wane, a rel­a­tive of some vic­tims was treated in hos­pi­tal while a cer­e­mony to wel­come their repa­tri­ated re­mains was un­der way.

The cer­e­mony hosted by the Lim­popo gov­ern­ment was held at a recre­ation hall inside the premises of the Pi­eters­burg Provin­cial Hos­pi­tal. Adele van der Linde, spokes­woman for the provin­cial So­cial De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment, said the woman was a rel­a­tive of Susan Ra­mat­sea and George Tshiv­hase, who also died.

Premier Stan Matha­batha pleaded with the be­reaved fam­i­lies to find so­lace in the fact that their beloved died in the church. “Their legacy will be that they did not die in a tav­ern, they died in church.”

Philip Mbedzi, the fa­ther of Mpho, who also died, said the fam­ily would now find clo­sure. He said the fam­ily did not blame the church.

Five KwaZulu-Natal vic­tims’ fam­i­lies said the wait for the bod­ies of their loved ones to be re­turned had been “ag­o­nis­ing” and had taken its toll “emotionally and fi­nan­cially.”

ANX­IOUS: Rel­a­tives of five KZN res­i­dents who died in the church tragedy wait at King Shaka In­ter­na­tional Air­port for their re­mains to ar­rive yes­ter­day.

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