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Cape Town - A Mitchells Plain man, with help from neighbours, saved his mother and nephew from a fire that killed three other members of his family in Tafelsig on Sunday.
David Simmers and his neighbours did not manage to rescue Charlene Simmers, Wilhelmina Simmers and Amanda Claassen who were trapped inside the burning home. By the time they had succeeded in breaking down a door the three had already died.
Simmers injured himself whilst trying to smash through a door and window, but he still managed to pull his mother Christina Lotz and nephew Nathan Claassen from the flames. Simmers said the family had been in his mother’s room.
He had been watching TV while the others slept. He said he noticed smoke coming from another room and that by the time he investigated, the fire had already spread to a second room.
“Everything happened so fast. The wind was blowing the fire. I tried all I could to save them, but the fire was too strong and hot. I think the smoke choked them. I tried to open the kitchen door but I was in such shock I couldn’t find the keys,” he said.
Simmers said Nathan’s mother had tried to drag herself out of the house but the smoke was too thick. “All she said to me was that I must take her baby. It was really bad.”
He said he had tried to force the door open, before resorting to pulling the burglar bars off the kitchen window in order to break it and jump out to get help. Simmers said doctors at the hospital told him Lotz had suffered 50 degree burns.
Another man, who had tried to gain access through the roof was injured when it caved in.
Gaironesa Andrews, a neighbour, was one of the first on the scene. She said neighbours had tried to break down the kitchen door from the outside and that they threw water and sand on the fire.
She said Lotz had been trapped in the room with two other family members. When neighbours finally opened her bedroom door the fire spread into the room, burning her.
She managed to crawl to the kitchen before Simmers pulled her outside.
“By the time we managed to get inside it was already too late…We found (Claassen and Wilhelmina) dead on the floor in the passage,” Andrews said.
Disaster management spokesperson Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said Lotz was admitted to the GF Jooste Hospital while Nathan had had an operation at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. “Her condition is stable, however, she will be transferred to the Tygerberg hospital for further medical treatment,” Solomons-Johannes said.
Police would be investigating the cause of the fire, he said.
On Monday, neighbours helped retrieve belongings from the charred remains and began building a shack for the family whose brick house had been destroyed.