Three cousins swept out to sea

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The families of the three boys missing off the coast of Hawston since Saturday, from left: Elizabeth Brewis, Charlene Fisher, Elna Petersen, Elvirene Spannenberg, who are all sisters, and Freddie Spannenberg Picture: Jason Boud

Cape Town - Three cousins from Kalksteenfontein are feared drowned after they went missing in the surf at Hawston over the weekend.

On Sunday, as police divers and volunteers on foot searched the sea and coastline for them, the youngsters’ mothers - who are sisters - sat in the shade at Hawston’s main beach.

Weeping, they told the Cape Argus about the circumstances and shared memories of their sons: Shelton Brewis, 12, Antonio Fisher, 15, and Rojei Spannenberg, 19.

They were swept out to sea by a rip current at about 2pm on Saturday. Two of their other cousins, Preslin and Tiaan Ross, were caught in the same rip but managed to swim back to shore and were reunited with their mother, Elna Ross, 45 minutes later. The boys had gone to Hawston on a bus as part of a day trip from Kalksteenfontein.

Sunburnt and with skin rashes, the younger of the two boys told his mother how Rojei Spannenberg had helped to keep him afloat, apparently saying he would “die” for his young cousin, and encouraged the other boys to be brave.

“Rojei was a good son. He worked hard and always helped our family with his pay cheque. Anyone could rely on him. When he got paid, he always shared his money with Antonio. They were very close,” Elvirene Spannenberg, Rojei’s mother, said as she clutched her son’s identity booklet.

Of Antonio, his mother Charlene Fisher said: “He was the smartest boy I knew. He had so much hunger for knowledge. On days that I could not afford to give him bus fare he would walk many kilometres just to get to school. He wanted a holiday job so that he could help with buying food and things we need at home,” she said, in tears.

Shelton was described as considerate and helpful.

“He was a churchgoing boy,” said his mother, Elizabeth Brewis. “He always went to Sunday school.

At home he did many chores and even made dinner from time to time. He would never talk back, and he loved his brother and sister very much. We had all become very close since my husband, his dad, died two years ago.”

The family expressed anger and confusion over the lack of lifeguards at the beach. It is the weekend of the 20th Hawston Fish Festival, one of the beach town’s busiest times of the year.

“We have been before, and in the past there were always lifeguards. Also, if the ocean conditions were dangerous, why then were there no warnings for the kids?” asked Brewis.

“We are very angry and disappointed in the municipality.”

The National Sea Rescue Institute was at the scene. Sea rescue craft and a helicopter were deployed, but the search was unsuccessful.

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said the ocean was still experiencing the effects of a “new moon spring tide” which comes with strong rip currents. He urged bathers to exercise caution.

By late Sunday afternoon police confirmed that no bodies had been recovered.

The search continues.

* Meanwhile, a 23-year-old Kraaifontein woman drowned in a tidal pool at Strandfontein on Sunday.

Lifesavers had tried to help rescue her. .

* A boy, 14, who is yet to be named, drowned at a municipal pool in Piketberg on Sunday. Community leader Billy Klaasen, said the boy, from Prince Albert, had been playing with his friends in the pool. No lifeguards were on duty, he said.

Cape Argus and Sapa

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