Phoenix granny, 67, dies in bedroom fire

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published Feb 16, 2020

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Durban - Desperate attempts by family and neighbours to free a Phoenix granny from her bedroom which was covered in flames on Saturday were in vain.

Angela Pillay, 67, of Longcroft, was asleep in her room when the blaze began around 5.45am.

Her 9-year-old granddaughter, who was asleep in the bedroom next door, was rescued by her son, Mervin.

But when Mervin Pillay and neighbours from the closely knit community attempted to rescue Pillay, the smoke and the flames overpowered them.

Glen Naidoo, the chief executive of the KZN VIP Group, said a member from his rescue team had attempted to access Pillay’s room with a ladder, but the fire was too intense.

Mervin was making breakfast in the kitchen below when the blaze began; two other children were also in the house.

When the Sunday Tribune visited the home yesterday, some of the locals, who had gathered there, were still mulling over Pillay’s tragic death.

“She was a loving person and got on well with all of us,” said one resident.

What sparked the inferno that wrecked the entire top level of her home continued to baffle them.

Colonel Thembeka Mbhele, the SAPS KZN’s spokesperson, confirmed that an inquest docket had been opened.

Bheki Hadebe, the fire department’s divisional commander of the northern region said they could see smoke pouring from the home, from a distance, as they raced to the scene.

“When we arrived at the home, the roof was on fire and the bedrooms were already gutted. We were told that there was a person trapped inside.”

Hadebe said it took about 30 minutes to bring the blaze under control.

“By the time we found the old lady she was already burnt beyond recognition.

“At this stage, we are not certain what caused the fire. Our investigations are continuing,” said Hadebe.

Andre Narainsamy, who lives next door to Pillay, said he heard screams from his neighbours home around 6am.

He looked through his bedroom window and saw plumes of smoke rising from Pillay’s bedroom.

Narainsamy said he was gripped by panic and was not sure how to react, but opted to call the emergency services for assistance.

He said that when he got to Pillay’s home, he saw Mervin and other neighbours trying to get in.

“They were frantic and panicked. There was a lot of screaming and shouting. People were desperate to rescue the aunty (Pillay), but the smoke was so thick that nobody could get in.”

Around 6.30am many of Pillay’s other family had arrived at the scene.

“There was a huge outpouring of emotion when the family realised their mother wasn’t going to make it. They became inconsolable when the mortuary team removed her remains in a body bag,” Narainsamy said.

He said Pillay had been his neighbour for more than 40 years.

“She was loved by everyone,” he said.

Pillay’s son-in-law, Donovan Mannaru said: “We are devastated and shocked.

“Her death was so sudden and unexpected.

“We have not yet decided when the funeral will happen. We’ve got to wait for the post-mortem to be completed. Perhaps we’ll know tomorrow.”

Pillay is survived by her five children and 12 grandchildren.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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