Boy, 6, dies in South Beach flat fire
Durban - Three generations of a Durban family - a 6-year-old boy, his granny and his great-grandfather - died in a devastating fire at their South Beach flat at the weekend.
Chereldene Hamann, 55, her father, Benjamin Collins, 80, and Hamann’s grandson, Milano Williams, 6, lost their lives.
Milano’s mother, Tanya Williams, said her cousin, Rudy Berries, was woken by Chereldene’s screams.
“He grabbed Milano and rushed out of the flat and handed the boy to a neighbour in the corridor who rushed him to hospital,” she said.
“Rudy ran back into the burning flat, but he could not hear Chereldene’s voice any more. He was out of breath and could not see anything inside the flat.”
She could not say how the fire started. Williams said her mother tried to pull Collins out of the bedroom while he was on fire.
“My mother had long hair and I think the fire caught it. Words cannot express what I am going through. We cannot announce the funeral details as yet. DNA must be taken from me and my mother’s brother, Edmund Williams, to confirm their identity.
“It will be painful to tell the school of Milano’s death,” Williams said.
The fire gutted the bedroom of the third-floor flat in the Falaise building in Prince Street. Residents living on the third floor and those above heard the screams and scrambled to douse the flames using the building’s fire hoses.
One of the residents rushed the child to hospital, but the boy died on arrival.
When the fire was out, Hamann and Collins were found dead in the bedroom.
The Falaise building board of trustees chairwoman, Koba Lewington, said they were reluctant to speculate on the cause of the blaze.
However she said the flat had not had electricity for a day.
“We can only assume they might have been using candles that night,” she said.
A neighbour said she was traumatised. Residents woke up at 3.20am on Saturday to the smell of smoke and tried to find its source.
Christy Naidoo, a resident who lives above the burnt flat, said his son had alerted him to the smoke.
“I thought the geyser was on fire, so I had a look but smoke was coming through from the bottom floor geyser compartment. I rushed to warn them to switch the geyser off.”
Naidoo said he did not know how many people were in the flat at the time.
“When I got down a flight of stairs smoke filled the corridor. Flames were high and reaching the roof of the flat. I ran to inform the security guard and building supervisor,” Naidoo said.
“The flames were high in the bedroom from what we could see. Many residents gathered.
“We pulled hosepipes from the nearest floors and began watering down the bedroom through the window on the corridor,” he said.
He said three hosepipes had been used to fight the fire. The nozzles were put through gaps between the broken window panes.
After 20 minutes they had the fire out.
Among the residents was a fireman who went inside the flat and stopped the fire from spreading.
Naidoo said the building supervisor was brave for trying to get to the family, but was overwhelmed by smoke.
“It was tragic and our hearts sank when we found out how many were inside. It was hysterical trying to fight the blaze and avoid breathing in smoke,” Naidoo said.
It is thought that Benjamin and Milano came to the flat for a sleepover.
Chereldene’s husband, Harold Hamann, said he was trying to come to terms with what had happened.
l In separate incidents at the weekend, four boys drowned on a farm dam in Bulwer when their rowing boat capsized. Five others in the boat swam to safety.
On Friday a 14-year-old drowned at Durban’s Snake Park Beach, while on Sunday a 17-year-old drowned in the uMngeni River.