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It is often said that men don’t cry. But Pippie’s father Erwin Kruger has broken his silence and described how he wept like a baby the day his daughter was burnt three years ago.
“I cried a lot… Crying is a healing process. I was brought up (with the saying) that men don’t cry. That is absolute bull****. Real men cry. Caring people cry. Sometimes when I’m alone at home or look through Isabella’s things, I start crying, just remembering the little small things she did or seeing her favourite toys. Looking at her photos on the fridge… many things can make you cry, but through shedding tears we are healed inside,” he said.
Kruger’s emotional account is contained in a new book penned by journalist Colleen Naude and Pippie’s mother, Anice. The book, titled Pippie, reveals how the young girl cheated death numerous times.
However, it is also the untold story of how a father has finally forgiven himself and has worked hard at finding healing.
Just before the tragedy struck on New Year’s Eve in 2011, Kruger had planned a braai with family and friends. According to him, everything was normal that day.
His wife sat on the couch watching TV while he prepared to start the fire outside. Pippie, also known as Isabella, was playing on the lawn 10m away from him and his young son, Arno, was sleeping.
He put a gel product on to the fire to help it burn. He had used the product on braais for years and “never in my life” had he expected anything untoward to happen.
But things were different that particular evening and moments after putting the gel on the fire his “princess” lay on the ground, badly burnt and swelling up horrendously.
Kruger’s hands and chest were also badly scorched.
The book details how Pippie was rejected by hospitals and how she later landed up at the Netcare Garden City in Joburg.
As efforts were made to save their daughter, Kruger and his wife found themselves in limbo, having to pay R35 000 for Kruger to be treated in ICU.
He admits, however, that he was never scared about the severity of his burns, but worried more about his daughter.
“It hurt like hell but I knew that my hands and chest would be fine… In hospital my mind ran havoc with me. I could not go to Isabella and had many nightmares. I was worried sick and felt like I could go crazy.”
Although Kruger’s hands are healed, the scars will forever be a reminder of what happened.
Kruger, a professional hunter, often reflects on the day Pippie was born and speaks of the dreams he had for his girl.
“I only wanted her to grow up, go fishing and hunting together and do some girl stuff as she is growing older.
“I once thought how am I going to keep all the boys away because she was such a wonderful little girl… she was definitely her own person. I still believe in those dreams and know that they will come true sooner or later.
Kruger has also found new admiration and unconditional love for his wife. He believes his faith and relationship with God are now stronger than ever. He’s even braaied since the incident.
He advises any man who has faced or is yet to face a similar tragedy to never give up.
His next mission in life is ensure that the gel that scarred his little girl never lands up in the hands of any other family.
“That gel is a time bomb waiting to explode and many people will get hurt in the future if something is not done about it.
“In the USA it is already banned in many states, and other states are following suit.
“One second on the shelves of supermarkets and outdoor shops is too long, every second more (and) another person can be hurt,” he said.
- The book Pippie will be available at all major and Cum book stores on August 23. - Saturday Star