‘My boy was so excited to come to funfair’

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Constable Nomathemba Ngubeni tries to console Mpumelelo Mbense, the mother of Simphiwe Mbense, who died on a ride at the Royal Show. Picture: Shan Pillay

Durban - For days, all five-year-old Simphiwe Mbense could think about was his school excursion to the Royal Agricultural Show. The outing turned to tragedy on Thursday when Simphiwe was killed while on the “Teapot” ride at the funfair.

Police spokesman, Lieutenant Joey Jeevan, said it was reported that Simphiwe had stood up while the ride was in operation and had been hit by another car on the ride.

“The operator who witnessed the incident immediately stopped the ride and emergency services were called. The child was removed to the emergency services facility at the showgrounds, where CPR was performed. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries and died a short while later,” said Jeevan. She confirmed police had opened an inquest into the death.

Simphiwe had been with other classmates from the KwaNoshezi Primary School in Sinathing when tragedy struck.

Mbense’s father, Sibusiso, said he realised something was wrong when he got a frantic call from one of the school teachers, asking him to rush to the showgrounds.

“Never in a million years, did I think my son was dead. But when I got there he had already been taken to the mortuary. My small boy… my last born is no longer around. This is shocking and I can’t understand what happened to him. He was so excited to come to the show. Every day he would ask me if today was the day that he was going to the show. He gave me a long list of things he wanted me to buy. And every day, before I returned home from work, I would buy an item from his list. He had wanted chips (crisps), juices and chocolates. He was beside himself this morning when I gave him those things. He gave me a big hug and thanked me. He said he was going to tell me all about the show and what he had done there when I got home from work,” Mbense said.

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The funfair ride at the Royal Show on which Simphiwe Mbense died.

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Visibly shocked and trying to comfort his wife, Mpumelelo, Mbense said all he was told was that his child had stood up while on the ride.

“I don’t know anything about what happened and how my son’s last moments were. All I was told was that he stood up and the other metal car hit him on his head,” Mbense said.

Now he is questioning why his son was allowed on a ride, that was clearly not meant for a five-year-old child.

“Yes, maybe he should not have stood up, but why did the teachers and the operator allow him on that ride? That was too dangerous for someone as small as he was,” Mbense said.

Earlier this month, on May 5, Mbense, had thrown a small Ben 10-themed party for Simphiwe, when he had turned five.

“He said he was going to buy a Ben 10 ice cream at the show. I wonder if he even had that,” said a tearful Mbense.

Royal Show chief executive, Terry Strachan, said he and the organisation were distressed at the “freak accident” and sent his condolences to the Mbense family.

“The public must rest assured that a thorough investigation into the matter will take place. We are deeply distressed,” Strachan said.

While hysterical school children had to be calmed down, a huge crowd gathered at the scene on Thursday, while other families with young children were seen rushing out of the extremely busy venue.

This is not the fist incident at this year’s Royal Show.

On Sunday, a stunt biker was seriously hurt when his stunt failed; on Monday, a cow escaped from an enclosure and ran rampant around the showgrounds, injuring two people seriously; and on Tuesday, businessman Marc Berry, who has a permanent stand at the show, was knocked over while crossing the road at the showgrounds. He is recovering from a few bruises.

Despite the tragedy, it was business as usual for the rest of the funfair, which continued to operate causing some bystanders to describe it as insensitive.

Gail Cornhill, who was at the scene, lambasted management for continuing to operate the fair.

“I was saddened to see that the fair carried on as normal, barring the ride where the tragedy had happened. I felt that they should have closed the fair, at least for the day, as a sign of respect for the little life lost there, but it appears that revenue rules and the rides were running at full steam,” Cornhill said.

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