Sorrow relived as bodies of church victims arrive
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.