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Durban - At least six people from two families who ate wild mushrooms picked from a field in eThekwini have died agonising deaths.
Police said that two security guards had found the mushrooms in a field in Mariannhill on Tuesday last week, and had unwittingly taken them back home to eat.
Four members of a Dassenhoek, Durban family – siblings Bheki, Nozipho and Nombulelo Mkhize, and Nombulelo’s 17-month-old daughter, Emihle – died between Wednesday and Sunday.
Xoli Buthelezi, Bheki’s girlfriend who cooked the meal on Tuesday last week, also died.
They all lived together. Bheki was a security guard, and he had picked the mushrooms.
Two other family members are counting their blessings after missing out on the deadly mushroom curry.
Sphelele Mkhize, 17, said when he arrived home from school that Tuesday, the curry was finished.
“My youngest brother, Spha, had said he didn’t want any of the curry,” he said.
A relative, Busi Cele, said on Tuesday that her cousin Bheki had come home on Tuesday last week with the mushrooms in a plastic bag, and that his girlfriend, Buthelezi, had cooked them in a curry.
Cele said she had been horrified when she saw Nombulelo, 22, before she died in Mariannhill Hospital.
The young mother had to be held down on her bed by nurses as she was having hallucinations.
“She wanted to get out of the bed; she was telling me that she had to go and I had to call the nurses to help me.”
Nombulelo had been taken to hospital on Saturday after having seizures, was throwing up and had blood coming out of her nose, Cele said. She died the same day.
A day earlier, Nozipho, 24, had died at the same hospital.
Nombulelo’s child died at the KwaDabeka Clinic on Thursday, while Buthelezi died on Wednesday at RK Khan Hospital in Chats-worth.
Bheki, 29, died on Sunday.
Police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge, said some men, believed to be security guards, picked the mushrooms and then went their separate ways home.
Three people from Clermont had been admitted to hospital and one person had died after eating mushrooms picked from the field about 2km from Saint Mary’s Hospital in Mariannhill. No more details of that family were immediately available.
Mdunge said that police had since cleared away the remaining mushrooms from the area, taking some for forensic analysis.
Cele described what had happened in the days after eating the mushrooms.
”On Tuesday, Nombulelo phoned, saying that Nozipho was going crazy and we must meet them in Pinetown to fetch her. She said Nozipho’s madness had started after eating the mushrooms,” said Cele.
She said Nombulelo had told her that Nozipho had been jumping on the bed and was hallucinating.
“Buthelezi was with Nozipho and Nombulelo when I went to meet them in Pinetown. Nozipho became very ill into the night and on Wednesday we had to phone an ambulance for her.”
Emihle, the child, had also taken ill on Wednesday and was taken to the clinic.
“They gave her [Emihle] some glucose and discharged her, but when we got home she was not getting any better. She was still vomiting and I took her back on Thursday and she died there,” said Cele.
The next day, Friday, the family received a phone call to say Nozipho had died.
Sphelele had been at home with his brother Spha when Buthelezi fell ill on Tuesday. “She had diarrhoea, was vomiting and getting very weak, so much so that even speaking was an effort.”
He called for an ambulance, but it only arrived the next morning after a very weak Buthelezi had been vomiting through the night.