Family devastated after matriculant drowns in Umfolozi River
By Nkululeko Nene 16m ago
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Durban – Nimrod Mphathiseni Bophela was looking forward to celebrating his daughter’s matric results next week, but instead he is mourning her death.
Samukelisiwe drowned in the Umfolozi River last Friday.
The 18-year-old was with four other teens who escaped.
The teenagers were returning home from picking indigenous fruit in a forest across the river when they were swept by a heavy current caused by recent heavy rains.
Nothando Khumalo, Samukelisiwe’s cousin, said she was due to return to her home in Ulundi the day before she drowned. She said it was Samukelisiwe's idea to pick the wild fruit for her mother. Khumalo said four boys assisted them to cross the river but when they returned the boys, who had been swimming, were gone.
"I am still shaking with fear after what happened. We were caught in a heavy current which happened so fast that I could not even say my last prayer. Death was staring at us in the face. We tried to swim across the river to a safe place but we were spun out of control and swept down the river. I stumbled upon a big rock metres away from the bank and climbed on it to rest for a few seconds before jumping over.“
She said she shouted for help until the passerby jumped in to save them. She said she saw Samukelisiwe struggling to breathe while sinking deeper to the bottom of the river. Khumalo said when the rescuer got to Samukelisiwe, it was too late because she had suffered a head injury. She suspected that her body and head were hit against the rocks below the water surface.
Samukelisiwe's sister Mandisa, 20, said she had planned to become a social worker. “I helped her to apply for her studies and she was very excited because she knew she would get a good pass. Her death has affected me very badly.”
Samukelisiwe’s father, Bophela, 64, described her as a smart young woman whose bright future ended in tragedy.
Samukelisiwe, who attended Maqhingendoda High School, was buried at her homestead in Ulundi on Friday.
Local councillor, the IFP’s Manyamfoko Masondo said the incident could have been averted if there was a bridge. He said an existing bridge was too far for the village residents who wanted to get to schools and clinics across their homes.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said an inquest docket was opened at the KwaCeza police station.