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Cape Town - A schoolgirl swept away by a raging river while on her way to write her final matric exam has been found in a shallow dam on a farm in De Doorns, five years after she disappeared.
Danielle De Wee, 18, was on her way to write her final exam in November 2008 when she was caught in heavy rain, which caused severe flooding in the Boland.
“I am 100 percent certain the remains are those of Danielle,” said her mother, Maria Bani, on Wednesday. “They found the remains early yesterday morning... we are waiting for DNA testing to be done. But I am certain it is Danielle.”
Danielle disappeared on the morning of November 5, 2008, while walking to school in the company of her stepfather, Tiser Bani.
When Bani and Danielle reached a river they had to cross, they found that the crossing had been washed away and the river was a torrent.
At the time of Danielle’s disappearance, Bani told how Danielle pointed out a rope and pipeline across the river and said they should cross there.
She was adamant she wanted to go to school to write her final matric exam, an Afrikaans paper. Danielle wanted to study biotechnology after school.
Bani said they both slipped and fell into the river. He tried to hold on to the girl’s hand, but they lost their grip and she disappeared under the water.
Attempts later to find her body failed, even when the farm dam was drained.
The heavy rains that week caused severe flooding in the northern Boland. Flooding caused widespread damage to vines and other crops in the Boland area at the time, and rivers were in spate, flowing to overflowing farm dams.
On Tuesday, workers digging to remove silted soil from a dam being rehabilitated, dug down about two metres into the sand, and found human remains.
Danielle’s family believe it is their daughter.
The uniform of De Doorns’ Hexvallei Secondary School was still recognisable, her mother said.
“They found the remains early yesterday [Tuesday] morning, I am not sure what time, and a policeman from De Doorns, Blackie Swart, came to inform me yesterday [Tuesday] morning.
“I am on my way to the forensics department now to identify clothing and for the DNA testing to be done. But I am certain it is Danielle.”
Bani said she was in shock, but also grateful for the news: “At least now we know where she was and what had happened,” she said.
Police confirmed that remains were found but spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said his office could not speculate on the identity of the person until all investigation had been completed.
At the time, the floods were described as the worst in memory. Rain lashed the Cape Winelands and Overberg the whole week of November 5, 2008, and caused about R1-billion damage.
Farmers with vineyards and fields submerged by the water at the time feared they would not be able to salvage crops.