Kakamas - Five young children, all cousins, suffocated to death in an unused chest freezer in Kakamas in the Northern Cape. Their bodies were discovered late on Tuesday afternoon.

Their deaths have left an entire community in a state of shock.

Kakamas police have opened an inquest into the deaths of the children, all between the ages of three and seven, who became trapped inside the freezer while playing in the backyard of their grandmother’s house.

Several family members at the scene referred reporters to the police following negative comments posted on social network sites, including accusations of neglect.

However, the parents of four of the five cousins, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the DFA that the deaths of their children was nothing more than a tragic accident than can happen quickly and to anyone.

“We left the children to play with their cousins on Tuesday afternoon, as we regularly did,” the father of two of the children, aged seven and three, said.

“When I got the call to come home, I left work immediately to find out what had happened.

“As I opened the freezer, the oldest child was at the top. As the strongest, he probably tried to get the door open... but was not able to do so.

“I did what I could. I tried to revive them but it was already too late.”

Jacques Louw, who lives a few houses away from the scene of the tragedy, said he was alerted to the incident when he heard a “bloodcurdling scream from two doors down”.

“I knew something terrible had happened and went to investigate. When I saw the children I was shocked and rushed them to hospital. I will never forget this horrible experience,” said Louw.

“We would often see them happily playing in the neighbourhood. The entire community is in mourning... in many ways, these children were like our own.”

Moon Isaacs looked on from her yard across the street while the bereaved family prayed together on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m new to this area so I did not know the children that well. However, this is a close-knit community where children are still safe to play in the street. There is always someone keeping an eye on them. Children know their neighbours and visit each others’ homes.

“The entire community is in shock because we know how easily something so terrible can happen. It’s a sad loss and I can’t even imagine how heartbroken the family must be.”

Northern Cape police spokeswoman, Major Dimakatso Mooi, said that the deaths are being investigated.

“The police in Kakamas have opened an inquest after five children, aged between three and seven, were found dead inside a freezer,” she said.

“At approximately 6pm on Tuesday evening the grandmother of the children found their bodies in an old freezer. It is believed that the freezer locked accidentally while the children were playing inside it.”

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