Durban - The South African Police Service Search and Rescue Unit have recovered the bodies of two eThekwini Municipality employees who went missing during heavy rains and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend.
The employees were Solomon Shandu, 52, and Simphiwe Norman Cele, 56.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Nqobile Gwala said that an inquest case was being investigated by Ndwedwe SAPS.
“The bodies of two men aged 52 and 56 were recovered at 2pm in the Umdloti River by SAPS Search and Rescue,” Gwala said.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said where their bodies were found was a considerable distance from where the municipal vehicle was retrieved on Monday.
Mayisela said that when the vehicle was spotted, search and rescue teams went into the water to investigate. Unfortunately, there were no occupants inside the vehicle. The team then resolved to search around the vehicle. However, due to a strong water current that posed a threat to the lives of the divers, the search operation had to be aborted. The following day, the teams embarked on an aerial search, without success. On Thursday their efforts yielded positive but sad results.
Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda thanked search-and-rescue teams for their determination and for not giving up on the search.
He also passed his condolences to the families.
The mayor also sent condolences to the family of an employee who was gunned down earlier this week in Folweni, south of Durban.
The employee was on standby and using a municipal vehicle when the tragedy happened. It is not clear at this stage what the motive behind his murder was.
On Tuesday, Kaunda had expressed his sadness at the news of the missing employees, when it was presumed that they had drowned.
It was believed that the men were on duty when they went missing.
“I would like to assure their families that our Search-and-Rescue teams have been looking for them and the team will not stop until they have been found,” Kaunda had said.
He had vowed that the municipality would do everything in its power to assist the families locate their loved ones.
Meanwhile, Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) had embarked on a search for the victims, and discovered Shandu’s body on Monday. They only learnt of Cele’s body’s recovery at midday on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Rusa conducted an aerial search for the missing victim, but to no avail.
Rusa spokesperson Prem Balram said that while conducting a recovery operation, the pilot was informed by Rusa officers on the ground that a second person, believed to have been in the same vehicle, was presumed drowned.
“According to eThekwini municipal management, it was established during the aerial search that an employee identified as Simphiwe Norman Cele was driving the vehicle and had transported Solomon to a funeral in Harrismith, Free State, on Saturday,” Balram said.
“Cele was en route to drop off Shandu at his residence when the white Toyota Etios was swept off a bridge. Both deceased persons were employed at the eThekwini Municipal Water Department in Ottawa, KZN.”
The vehicle was located in the river on Monday.
Earlier, the Daily News reported that the Rusa R44 helicopter and crew left at 10am for Ogunjini. Then, only Shandu was reported missing.
Balram said Shandu’s family contacted Rusa after his vehicle was spotted submerged in a river on Monday.
Balram said Shandu was employed at the municipality as a driver. He last made contact with his family after he left a funeral in Harrismith, Free State, on Saturday at about 6pm.
“He was returning to his home in eNtaphuka, Ndwedwe, during a storm when his vehicle was swept off a bridge,” Balram said.