The families of the four boys whose lifeless bodies were recovered from a hole at the Borcherds Quarry bridge intersection near Nyanga on Monday evening are demanding answers from the authorities.
Emotions ran high as the families visited to the scene where it is believed the boys – Axolile Mabangula, Azola Quweni, Nqabayethu Mlaza and Ivakele Dalasile – had been doing somersaults and climbed into the hole.
When the sandbank collapsed, five-year-old Indiphindile Mabangule, ran to call for help in the nearby community, but by the time a group of residents got to the hole, it was too late.
They were faced with only silence.
And after several failed attempts to save the four trapped boys, they called emergency services, just after 3pm.
Just over three hours later, around 6.30pm, the body of the first boy was found. Minutes later, the second was retrieved. And around 9pm the third body was found. Emergency Services, assisted by the K-9 Unit, worked though the night and by 2.21am on Tuesday, the body of the fourth boy was recovered from the sand, said the City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse.
At the scene of the accident, distraught members of the four boys’ families comforted each other.
One relative, who arrived late at the scene, said; “I am just totally shattered and heartbroken. I thought these kids drowned in water. Where on earth would a sand swallow children. Somebody owes us answers,” he said.
One of the crying mothers exclaimed: “I do not believe this. It is like a big nightmare”.
On Tuesday Nqabayomzi’s mother and sister could not hold back their tears as they spoke about him. Weeping uncontrollably Landela Mlaza told reporters how she was battling to deal with the loss of her young boy who had dreams of becoming a bus driver.
She described him as loving and playful.
Axolile’s mum, Thuliswa, said she had hoped that they might be found alive. “I kept praying to God that they come alive, but it wasn’t too like that. I do not want to think how it felt to be there,” she said.
Meanwhile community leaders in Nyanga have called for more recreational facilities in the area.
The area’s councillor, Khaya Yozi, has warned people to exercise caution and keep an eye on their children.
He also urged law enforcement to monitor the bridge, where people often dig for sand which they use in construction.
In August of 2019 Vukani reported on this when residents raised their concerns that the removal of sand could compromise the safety of the bridge (“Safety of bridge in question”, Vukani, August 8 2019).
At the time residents told Vukani they feared the bridge would collapse. No one at the time imagined the sand itself may collapse and kill four young boys.
In an impassioned plea to the people of Vukuzenzele, Europe, and other nearby areas not to dig up sand around the bridge, Mr Yozi said: “I understand why they dig but I cannot condone that. The municipality should provide them with sand especially when winter comes.
“When winter comes, the shacks will flood and people will start digging the sand again. Let’s get preventative measures before winter and provide them with the sand.
“This unfortunate incident, no one wished it could have happened. The sad part is that I also played there as a youngster but people were not digging the bridge. There are no recreational facilities as I spoke to you, some children are playing at the cemetery,” he said.
Zama Mati who spoke on behalf of the families also emphasised the need for more recreational facilities for children in the area.
“Of course we are devastated by this. Another sad thing, this is the only open field that children use to play on. Now it has taken the lives of four young boys,” said Mr Mati.
City officials have since covered up the hole.