Sanele Nxumalo’s mom died trying to escape the fire, while he risked his life climbing into the burning home to rescue one of his daughters.
The fire apparently broke out when a candle tipped over on the ground floor of the double-storey house just before 11pm. Eight people were in the home at the time.
Prem Balram, of private security company Reaction Unit South Africa, said three people escaped through the back door while the rest of the family were trapped upstairs. The fire spread rapidly through the home, cutting off their escape route. Their only option was to climb out of a window and jump to the ground.
“The deceased had life-threatening injuries after she jumped out of the window and apparently landed on her head,” he said, adding that one other person suffered a fracture to her leg after jumping from a bedroom window.
With the use of a ladder, a 5-year-old girl, who was the last remaining person in the house, was rescued, Balram said.
The child suffered severe burns to her face and body when the fire spread to the upper level of the home, he said.
The injured were stabilised at the scene before being transported to hospital. Durban North Fire Department Divisional Commander Bruce de Gier said the ground floor was ablaze when the fire crew arrived at the scene.
“Some of the residents in the home jumped from the upper floor windows to escape the fire. One person died while doing so. The cause of death is suspected to be a broken neck. People were treated by paramedics for smoke inhalation and burns. The cause of the fire will be investigated,” De Gier said.
Nxumalo, 27, said he was awoken by his mother Ntombikhona Ntuli’s screams for help. Ntuli, 57, Nxumalo, his girlfriend, Zama, and his daughters, Olwethu and Ntombifuthi, were all upstairs in their bedrooms, while his sister and nephews were in the dining room on the ground floor, where the fire had started.
Nxumalo said he tried to rush downstairs but was overwhelmed by smoke and had to turn back.
He said the heat was intense and he escaped by climbing out of a bedroom window and dropping to the ground. When he came around to the front of the house, he found his mother on the floor outside the door, dead. She had jumped from her bedroom window.
Nxumalo said his girlfriend and Ntombifuthi jumped out of a window – he caught his daughter in his arms, while his girlfriend injured her leg in the fall.
However, Olwethu, was still upstairs. He took a ladder from a neighbour and climbed into her bedroom. Using his cellphone as a torch, he navigated his way through the smoke until he found Olwethu. He grabbed her and climbed back out. She had burns on her body.
His sister and nephews who had escaped from the back door were unharmed.
Nxumalo said they broke down the front door and used sand from the garden and water to try and douse the fire.
Captain Nqobile Gwala, a police spokeswoman, said an inquest docket had been opened at Verulam Police Station.
In a separate incident, three mini factories at the Kampara Business Park in Clare Estate were razed in a fire on Thursday night.
Property owner Cyril Nair said the conference centre on the premises was not damaged.
Nair estimates the damage to be worth more than R3million.