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Pietermaritzburg - Medication, alcohol, and treatment could have contributed to the deaths of three men after a KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) test, an inquiry heard on Wednesday.
Ravenda Padayachee, for the transport department, said these factors could have contributed to the deaths of Lenny Nxumalo, Ntuthuko Sibisi, and Sibonakaliso Mhlanga.
At a commission of inquiry in Pietermaritzburg, he put the possibilities to Dr Dhanraj Maney, a forensic medical officer who conducted post mortems on the three men.
The commission is probing the deaths of eight people who died after participating in a RTI fitness test in the city in December. The victims took part in a four-kilometre run at the Harry Gwala Stadium. The event formed part of a fitness test for RTI job applicants. More than 34 000 people qualified to apply for 90 advertised RTI trainee posts. Of these, 15 600 attended a fitness test on December 27, and a similar number on December 28.
Maney found no specific cause of death for the three men.
Padayachee said when Sibisi was treated, he was given 7.8 litres of fluid, but had an output of 400ml. He said this could have led to Sibisi drowning from fluid in his lungs.
According to the hospital's records, Sibisi had an epileptic seizure when he was admitted, but did not receive medication for the seizures.
Padayachee attributed Nxumalo's behaviour of being violent and refusing treatment from paramedics to alcohol.
He told the commission that Nxumalo's friend had given a statement stating they had been drinking alcohol on December 25 and 26.
Nxumalo apparently finished first in his group at 5.30pm on December 28 and then fell ill. He refused help from paramedics who offered him liquid to drink. Nxumalo reportedly became violent towards them.
“I cannot say alcohol was the only reason for his (violent) behaviour,” Maney said. Nxumalo eventually received treatment after 8pm and died after resuscitation failed.
When Padayachee asked Maney if alcohol was a dehydrating substance, he agreed. Padayachee asked Maney if Nxumalo had a compromised liver. He said “yes”.
“That would make his body predisposed to retaining heat,” Padayachee said.
Nxumalo's liver had fatty changes, a sign of alcohol consumption.
Maney said he had not received the blood results which he took from Nxumalo during the post mortem.
According to medical records from Sibisi's work place he had been on chronic medication for hypertension. The medication reduces fluid in the body and makes it unable to manage dissipation of heat.
In January 2006 and October 2010 he had been prescribed medication for his high blood pressure.
Padayachee said it was impossible to know whether Mhlanga took his medication the day of the fitness test or before.
He asked Maney if a person with hypertension who had taken his medication at the time of the fitness test would have struggled to dissipate heat.
Maney said this was the case in theory, but did not know if this happened with Sibisi.
The commission continues on Thursday when another forensic medical officer is expected to testify about the post mortems she conducted on another three participants.