Sailors killed in gas-leak tragedy to be honoured
THE three SA Navy officers who died trying to rescue workers from a gas-filled pit at Naval Base Durban last month, would be honoured posthumously, SA Navy Chief Vice-Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane said.
He said Leading Seaman Amrithlall Tothara Ramdin, Able Seaman Francois William Mundell and Seaman Henro Ter Borg had shown there was no greater sacrifice than to give one’s life for one’s country or fellow countrymen.
The dead sailors would be acknowledged posthumously with medals for their bravery.
Deon Fourie, professor of strategic studies at Unisa and an authority on South African medals and decorations, said they would in all probability be honoured with the Order of Mendi for Bravery.
The chief of the Sandf, General Solly Shoke, has already committed to looking after the dependants of the sailors, and bursaries would be awarded to their children via the Sandf Education Trust.
Ramdin, Mundell and Ter Borg died when they went to assist Department of Public Works employees working on a sewage valve at the naval base.
Gas fumes leaked out and affected the workers’ breathing, overwhelming them.
A contractor ran for assist- ance and approached the passing Maritime Reaction Squadron bus.
The navy members immediately responded and descended into the pit, with a contractor from Riordor.
Unfortunately, all four succumbed to the high levels of fumes in the pit and died.
More assistance arrived. Rescuers descended into the pit using compressed air breathing apparatus and brought six bodies to the surface.
Twenty-four other people who assisted with the recovery of the bodies were taken to hospital where they were treated for shortness of breath.
Hlongwane was out of the country attending the SS Mendi centenary in the English Channel when the accident happened, but indicated he would visit the families.
“While no word or deed can ever compensate the bereaved families for their loss, or serve as recompense for their sacrifice, we are able to at the very least recognise and reward their bravery and courage, albeit posthumously.”