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Boy, 5, dies in school lawnmower tragedy

Johannesburg - A five-year-old boy was run over by a heavy-duty lawnmower in Soweto on Tuesday. He later died.

The horrific incident occurred at Digabane Primary School in Chiawelo during the lunch break.

Small lumps of sand, used to cover traces of blood, marks the spot where the five-year-old pupil was run over by a lawnmower. Picture: Antoine de Ras. Credit: THE STAR

The boy died before reaching a hospital.

A night guard at the school, who didn’t want to be named, said his 12-year-old daughter, who goes to Digabane, was not far from the scene when the accident happened.

“When my daughter came home, she told me that she was busy buying a kota (bunny chow) during break time when she heard other kids screaming. She told me that she went to look and saw a child lying on the grass covered in blood,” said the guard.

“I know the groundsman, so when he came back from the police station, I went to find out exactly what happened.”

The groundsman lives in a cottage on the school premises with his wife.

“He told me that he was mowing the soccer ground grass because there was soccer scheduled for tomorrow (today). He said he was pushing the lawnmower, and suddenly some kids pushed the child in front of it.”

The five-year-old suffered multiple lacerations and died before the Johannesburg Emergency Management Services ambulance reached Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital.

The Gauteng Department of Education has expressed sadness at the boy’s passing.

“We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family of the learner who passed away as well as to all staff and fellow learners,” said department spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane.

“The head of department has immediately ordered an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident, including how the learner happened to be in the area where grass was being cut,” she said.

“The investigation will also look into whether any safety regulations or policies were breached.”

Sekhonyane added that the department had sent a team from their psychosocial unit to the school to provide counselling to the child’s family as well as residents surrounding the school.

National Association of Parents in School Governance chairman Mahlomula Kekana said the association would do its own investigation outside the department’s probe into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death.

“It brings us back to the issue of school safety, which we’re always raising,” he said.

Kekana said the association would ensure that someone was held accountable for the incident and that the department did not “get technical” about the matter and not hold anyone responsible.

“If no one is held responsible for this, we’ll advise the parents to take it further,” he said.

No one had been arrested on Tuesday.

Captain Mpande Khoza, SAPS spokesman for the Moroka cluster, said an inquest had been opened.

“We’ve obtained statements from involved parties and witnesses, and will continue to do so tomorrow.”

The groundsman refused to speak to The Star on the phone.

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