Trio die in freak boat tragedy

By KARABO SEANEGO Time of article published Jan 3, 2012

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Three people died when they fell overboard and were struck by the boat’s propeller at a resort outside Bronkhorstspruit.

Witnesses to the accident at the Bajadam resort on the southern banks of the Bronkhorstspruit Dam yesterday said there were three people in the boat, which was pulling a tube with two people on it.

It is alleged that the skipper, Eddy dos Santos, 42, made a sharp turn and lost control of the boat at about 11.30am. Dos Santos fell overboard and was followed by his passengers – Raymond da Costa, 17, and Michelle Rujo, 16 – as the boat spun out of control in circles.

It is believed the trio were struck repeatedly by the propeller.

Gawie Botha and his wife, who were on the tube, watched in horror as the drama unfolded. Botha’s wife is related to Dos Santos.

Later, while walking from the scene with police as the boat was taken from the water, Botha said he was too traumatised to speak. He asked the Pretoria News to use his statement to the police.

In his statement Botha said that after he saw the trio fall overboard, he swam towards them to try to help.

Police spokesman Johannes Japhta said Botha picked up Dos Santos, saw the terrible nature of the skipper’s injuries and realised he was dead.

Botha and his wife were rescued by members of The Catamaran Club at the dam.

Said Japhta: “Another witness who was standing on the shore heard screams and called for help. The Catamaran Club’s rescue team went out to assist and recovered the bodies of the three and brought them to shore.”

A spokesman for The Catamaran Club, who declined to be named, said they sprang into action after members saw the incident and sent out their rescue boat.

“We rescued the survivors and recovered the corpses and brought them to shore,” he said.

Japhta said at this stage it was not clear whether the three died because of their injuries – all three had extensive lacerations – or whether they had drowned. He said all five had been wearing life jackets. “An inquest docket has been opened.”

Botha said last night that he and the family were “traumatised and I don’t know if I will be able to give you a proper statement”.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said it would be investigating the accident.

Samsa’s regional manager inland, Captain Francis Chilalika, said a surveyor was sent to the scene to establish what had happened.

“Our investigation will be looking at what happened, how it happened and why. The investigation will also enable us to know what needs to be done to ensure that such accidents don’t happen again.” - Pretoria News

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