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Durban - More than five years after her young son died in a fall at the Gateway shopping mall, a former Phoenix mother still relives the ordeal every day.
“My child would have been 12 years old this year. No matter how many years pass, he is still with me every day,” said Michelle Moonsamy, 36.
She was speaking to the Daily News on Sunday, after the undisclosed out-of-court settlement reached between the mall owners and her family last week.
The family, represented by attorney Theasen Pillay, sued Old Mutual for R5 million in December 2011, almost three years after Tyreek’s tragic death.
But they had grown weary of the lengthy court battle.
“This has been the sixth year of this fighting and all I feel is emptiness. This has drained the life out of me,” said Moonsamy, who now lives with her family in Johannesburg.
“What we received (the settlement) is far less than what we asked for. But even millions and millions (of rand) will never make a difference: that will never replace my boy.”
Six-year-old Tyreek fell 6m from the second floor near the uMhlanga mall’s cinema area on December 6, 2008. The space between the escalator and side balustrade through which he had squeezed was almost 20cm wide.
Tyreek had been with an older cousin and other relatives doing pre-Christmas shopping.
Family members said at the time that the cousin had been making a phone call when the child walked closer to the escalator.
Hearing a loud noise, he went over to see what had happened and saw Tyreek lying on the floor below.
Tyreek had fallen on his head and was attended to by paramedics soon after. He was later pronounced dead at uMhlanga Hospital.
“It’s very hard to explain what it feels like to lose a child, especially one so young and full of life,” Moonsamy said.
“I can relive the day in my head over and over, like it happened yesterday.”
Moonsamy said her family had been forced to relocate because the constant reminders of the incident haunted them.
“I have never been back there (Gateway) and will never go there again.”
She said her father still talked about Tyreek like he was still around.
“He was the first boy, the first grandson. He will always be special for that reason.”
The child’s brother, Megal, who was only just over a year old, also remembers Tyreek with fondness.
“He talks about his brother all the time. We have pictures of him hanging on the walls and he often points Tyreek out to visitors.”
Moonsamy said her family remembered Tyreek every Christmas and on September 8, his birthday.
“We’ve been for counselling. My husband, Peter, took the tragedy hard and became very depressed.”
In addition to Megal, the couple have two other children, Emilia, 5, and Tyler, 3.
“They definitely helped pull me out of the dark place. They keep me going.”
She expressed disappointment at Gateway’s alleged lack of accountability.
“They did nothing to ease our grief over the years. They didn’t care that we lost a child,” Moonsamy said.
Gateway’s management had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.