Cape Town - Grief and sorrow filled the Salt River mortuary on Tuesday as the families identified the bodies of the four boys who died after falling into a sinkhole at an N2 bridge near Nyanga on Monday afternoon.
The bodies of Ivakele Kalikopu, 13, Nqabayethu Mlaza, 12, Axolile Mabangula,11, Azola Quweni, 13, were recovered by emergency crews on Monday night and in the early hours of Tuesday, after they fell into the hole under the bridge along the N2 highway at the Borcherds Quarry turn-off close to Nyanga.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said Gugulethu police were investigating inquest cases after the bodies of four boys were recovered.
Van Wyk said on Monday at about 3:30 the police attended to a scene at N2 Borcherds Quarry Road opposite the Europe informal settlement, where five children were playing on the side of the road under surface sand. The surface collapsed and the four boys fell into the hole, while a five-year-old boy survived and ran to report the incident to the community.
He said at about 6:20 the bodies of the first boys, Mabangula and Mlaza, were recovered. At about 9pm Quweni's body was recovered, and Kalikopu's body was also recovered at about 3am on Tuesday.
When the Cape Argus visited some of the families before they departed to the mortuary, Nqabayethu's mother, Landela Mlaza, 40, said she last saw her child on Monday morning when he (Nqabayethu) was sleeping, before she could depart to her place of work.
She said on her way home after work, she received a call from her eldest child Asisipho Mlaza, 20, informing her about the incident. "When I arrived I saw people digging and searching for the children who apparently died in that hole."
Asisipho described her brother, Nqabayethu, as a child who loved people, was caring and good hearted, and who always made jokes.
Ivakele's aunt, Honjiswa Dalasile, said the families were heart broken and were in disbelief. "I used to visit my sister and Ivakele all the time, and I have never heard any troubles about him. He was a sweet boy," said Dalasile.
Mayor Dan Plato, who visited the scene yesterday, said what started as a moment of happiness through children playing outside, quickly became a tragedy after the sandbank collapsed.
Plato said he would this morning visit the families of the victims. He said the past year has shown how fragile life is and that this incident reminded them of the uncertainty of life.
However, Plato said he was not sure why children were playing under the bridge, when there were enough playgrounds in Nyanga.
“There are enough play parks in Nyanga, if you drive down this main road on the left side you will see one of the biggest sporting fields. Then when you pass Nyanga Police station, there is a massive play park, a brand new play park constructed by the City,” said Plato.
He also said it was astonishing that people nearby were digging sand for building purposes underneath the highway.
Councillor Khaya Yozi, whose constituency borders the N2 and Borcherds Quarry Road, said the area next to the N2 had for years served as a recreational space for the youth of the adjacent informal settlements, which because of their density was the only open space where the area’s football teams practised and children played.
“There are enough play parks in Nyanga, if you drive down this main road on the left side you will see one of the biggest sporting fields. Then when you pass Nyanga police station, there is a massive play park, a brand new play park constructed by the City,” said Plato.
Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez said a team of social workers, together with the non-profit organisation partners, would continue to render psycho-social support and assistance to the family members and neighbours who have been left deeply traumatised by the heartbreaking incident.