Firefighters' 7-hour struggle to retrieve body of illegal miner buried underground
Johannesburg - Ekurhuleni firefighters spent seven hours trying to retrieve the body of an illegal miner who was buried 3 meters underground when the land he was working on collapsed under him.
Without having to depend on machinery to retrieve the body, the firefighters had to carry the dangerous operation manually as the fact the land they were on was shaky and could give way any time, burying them underground too.
According to spokesperson for the Ekurhuleni Emergency Services Willi Ntladi, police officers arrived at the fire station on Thursday saying the body of an illegal miner was buried underground.
Ntladi said together with the police's K9 Unit, the rescue team from Germiston central and Boksburg fire, they went to an unused mine shaft in High road, Germiston, where the man was said to be.
There, police dogs were able to positively identify the spot where the man was.
"We followed police to the scene. The illegal miner had been digging alone at the shaft when the sides of the shaft collapsed on him. We estimated that he was buried 3m underground," he said.
"His tools were also at the scene, a fork and a garden spade as well as a South African ID book."
Ntladi said the operation was dangerous as there land around the shaft was not stable as it was only sand and ash.
"We had to be careful as we were digging. It was a manual operation. We could not use a machinery because what if we cut into the body?
"The operation started midday when the call was logged, and the body was recovered at 8pm the same day. The patient was declared dead on scene by City of Ekurhuleni paramedics," he said.
Ntladi said they understand that the man fell down the trench on Tuesday and it was not yet known why it was reported only on Thursday.
He said police were investigating the matter.