RIVER OF DEATH
Questions are being asked and fingers pointed after the tragic drowning of a Parktown Boys’ High pupil at a school camp.
Boys panicked when they got into deep water, says lodge instructor.
The discovery of the body of a Parktown Boys’ High School pupil has led to several questions about the handling of the trip, with parents demanding answers on why it took nearly a day before a search was started for the drowned boy.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that none of the instructors knew that Enoch Mpianzi couldn’t swim and didn’t even notice his disappearance, and this is ultimately what led to his death, according to an instructor at the lodge near Brits, North West.
“Before they went into the river for the water exercise, I repeatedly asked whether they could swim and all said ‘yes’. I strongly believe he would have survived if he could swim,” Dirk Nel, one of the 17 instructors at the Inyathi Sports School and Lodge, told Saturday Citizen yesterday.
He painted a picture of panicky pupils after they realised they were in the deep end of the river, with instructors scrambling to pull the boys out of the Crocodile River passing through the facility.
Nel explained that the boys arrived at the facility just after 1pm and went on to participate in various activities, including adventure, obstacle courses and archery.
He said for survival exercises, there was a simulation of a plane crash and the boys were split into groups of 15, with five boys in each sub-group.
Each group had to carry one pupil, pretending to be injured in the crash, down the river on a stretcher they made out of wood, ropes and tyre tubes.
According to Nel, the instructors told the boys to remain close to the edge of the river where it was not deep and the current was not strong, but some of them somehow ended up waist-deep the middle of the river and started to panic.
“Boys being boys, they wandered to the deep end and started panicking as they went deeper and deeper. All hell broke loose when everybody tried to climb on the stretchers, which capsized, taking them under. We immediately rushed to pull the boys out of the water but we had no idea how many were there as no list was given to us,” he said.
He said though the boys were shaken by the river experience, they went on to take part in other activities, unaware that one of them had been swept away.
Nel said the school principal had a roll call afterwards but even then failed to notice that Mpianzi was missing. He said if they had a list with the names of the pupils maybe they would have noticed earlier and done something.
He said it was only the following day that the pupils noticed that one of them was missing, saying they had searched everywhere for the boy with not luck.
“We spent three hours looking for him in the river that night but all we could find was a cap and T-shirt,” Nel said, adding that he was so traumatised by the incident that he could not sleep.
Dipuo Modisane, a cleaner at the facility, said the boys were excited when they arrived but their second day was gloomy and they were shaking with shock.
She said they were instructed to search every room after it emerged that Mpianzi was missing.
“The worst part is that the boys had met for the first time that day and they did not know each other but there was this one pupil who said he last saw [Mpianzi] at the river but was scared to talk. He only spoke the following day but it was too late,” Modisane said.
The school staff accompanying the pupils have come under fire for not reporting the missing boy in time.
Police divers started searching for the boy on Thursday, and his body was discovered yesterday around 10am, three kilometres from the activity site.
North West police spokesperson, Colonel Adele Myburgh, said an inquest docket had been opened, while Gauteng education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, said they were devastated by the incident.
Lesufi said the department would conduct an investigation into Mpianzi’s death, and will determine the circumstances and who was to blame. He said he would report back within three months.
“We are devastated at the department ... and will do everything in our power to compile a proper report,” Lesufi said. –
We spent three hours looking for him in the river
SCENE OF THE TRAGEDY. Camp worker Julie Habedi next to the Crocodile River in North West where Parktown Boys’ High pupil Enoch Mpianzi, inset, drowned during an exercise on a school camp.