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Body of woman 'swallowed by hole' found

Published Oct 27, 2006


It took three hours for the muddied body of Joyce Shongwe to be brought to the surface of a mineshaft.

The woman "swallowed by a hole" was dead when paramedic Leonard Pretorius got to her. She had a gash on her forehead and the skin on her face was peeling off.

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Ekurhuleni Emergency Services spokesperson Johan van den Heever said Shongwe was found 80m below the surface on Thursday.

She had fallen into the ground at the Makausi informal settlement in Primrose, Germiston.

Shongwe was burning copper pieces she had picked up from a dumping site on Tuesday night when she fell into the abandoned mineshaft.

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On Wednesday, emergency services workers, engineers and police officers tried for several hours to find her.

When an exhausted Pretorius emerged from the hole on Thursday after three hours, having found Shongwe's body, he received medical attention.

Curious onlookers gathered to catch a glimpse of Shongwe as her body was brought to the surface, not knowing she was dead. Her boyfriend, Sam Maluleke. was overcome with grief when he heard the news.

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Shongwe's children - Innocent, 13, and Martha, 7, - seemed oblivious to the situation as Maluleke and his neighbours gathered in the house trying to figure out what to do.

It was evident that the incident has left the community traumatised. Most of the residents spoke of leaving the place because they felt it was not safe. However, most of them have nowhere to go.

Lota Mashiloane said: "This place is dangerous. I don't think I will be able to live here after this incident. We are not sure what will happen next."

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Van den Heever added that it was the Department of Minerals and Energy's responsibility to look after abandoned mines, and that Disaster Management would attend to the problem at Makausi.

When the rescue operation was over, residents mobbed Pretorius. They wanted to show their appreciation by shaking his hand, and they commended him for his bravery.

Pretorius said it had been scary inside the hole, but he had to find Shongwe so that her family could get closure.

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