‘I saw my sister, she was on fire’

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Copy of DF shack 3006 d INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS A mother and her 6-year-old son burnt to death when their shack in Ritchie went up in flames. Photo: Danie Van der Lith

 

Kimberley - A mother and her 6-year-old son burnt to death when their shack in Ritchie went up in flames early on Monday morning. An 11-year-old boy managed to escape the blaze and called for help, but he was not able to save his mother and brother.

Nicky Uys, 35, and her son, Jo-Andre, died when their shack in Rietvale caught alight. Faga-Dean managed to escape the blaze and went to call for help after a candle apparently fell over and started the fire.

Faga-Dean, who was on Monday extremely traumatised by the deaths of his mother and brother, said that he woke up and saw that the candle, that was burning when he went to sleep, was burnt out, setting the plastic candle holder alight.

“I woke up and saw that the couch inside the shack was burning. I went to my mother and told her that we should get out because the shack was on fire. I tried to pick up my sleeping brother but my mother told me to ‘leave them’, because ‘it was already too late’.

“I tried to open the door but the key was too hot to touch. By this time flames were everywhere. I then climbed through the window and ran to my uncle living next door to call for help,” the boy said.

The boy’s uncle, Kevin Uys, said he woke up at around 2am and heard his sister’s child calling “uncle, uncle, please come and help”.

“At first I thought that there was a fight going on, but when I got outside I saw flames and smoke coming out of my sister’s shack. The heat was extremely intense but I managed to break down one side of the shack.

“Through the flames I saw something move – it was my sister – her hair and clothes were on fire. I called her name, asking her to come closer but it seemed as if she had already lost consciousness. Then I heard her head explode and I knew she was dead,” Uys said, before breaking down in tears.

He said that he never saw the younger boy.

Family members were prevented from seeing the victims by emergency services personnel who arrived on the scene after the fire was extinguished by community members who used sand and rocks.

He also said that a pathology vehicle only came after 7am to collect the two bodies, while police had, by late on Monday afternoon, not returned to the scene after telling him that he could not start cleaning the area or even get close to it.

It is still unclear why the mother did not want to leave the shack when her older son urged her to do so.

Lena Seekoei, Nicky Uys’ mother, reacted with bitterness towards the Sol Plaatje Municipality, while blaming poor service delivery for her daughter and grandson’s deaths.

“If we had electricity, Nicky would not have had to struggle with a candle. If there was access to water, the community could have extinguished the fire before they died. If the roads were not as inaccessible as they are, emergency services would have gotten to them sooner. If it was not for the poor service delivery in Ritchie, they would have still been alive today,” a distraught Seekoei said.

Spokesman for the police, Lieutenant Sergio Kock, said on Monday that the police had opened an inquest into the deaths.

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