Durban boy electrocuted to death while swimming in river
A nine-year-old Durban boy died after being electrocuted by an exposed electrical wire in a canal he was crossing on Sunday, 16 February 2020. Brengur Britz, a station commander at eThekwini Fire and Emergency Services said the initial call for assistance was received at 14h30 and at 14h40 the rescue crew of four from Congella Fire Station arrived at the given location with a rescue pumper, as per their dispatch. Police divers from Durban Search and Rescue (SAR), Durban Metro Police SAR and Durban K9 SAR were also deployed. At 14h45, Britz said that on-scene information warranted a strategy change. “Once the Brigade arrived at given location as per dispatch, which was a parking lot next to a nature reserve, we were informed by medical staff and local residents that a child had been shocked while playing in a river. Medical staff then stated that South African Police Services (SAPS) had proceeded into the nature reserve to locate the child. When bystanders and medical staff where questioned as to the exact location of child, they stated that the child is in the river, which is located deep down into the nature reserve and close to the M7(freeway). Brigade then proceeded on foot into the reserve following a foot path. After about 800m we came across a T-junction in the path. Brigade then proceeded down chosen path, after about 400m it was evident that our elevation was increasing and not decreasing.”
“Having been given information that the child is located in a river, we returned to T-junction and followed the other path. Brigade then came across SAPS and Metro Search and Rescue, who stated that they had not located any river or child down the path they were returning from. It was clear at this stage each service had been given different reports concerning the exact location. In addition to this, the child’s father was with SAPS and Metro Search and Rescue and the father himself was unsure of child’s location. A team decision was then made to regroup and reformulate the search plan. At this stage approximately 30 to 45 minutes had elapsed from arrival at nature reserve car park. While returning to T-junction, a search and rescue member received a phone call stating that the correct location was next to the M7, which was three to five kilometres away from our current location,” Britz added.
The eThekwini Fire and Rescue Service and various other services returned to the car park and then proceeded to the new location. Once services arrived at the new location, they were informed by SAPS on scene at the new location that this was now a body recovery and no longer a rescue. Brigade with SAPS/Metro Search and Rescue gained access to the deceased which was located 500m from the roadway inside a water canal located within the nature reserve. The deceased had an electrical cable grasped in his hand and was lying in the centre of the canal. The electrical cable was an illegal connection that was laid across and laying in the canal. The deceased child was then packaged and brought to the staging area.
Britz said there were several frustrations experienced during this recovery, not least of which, was that no definite location of the child could be ascertained from bystanders, including the boy’s mother, when arriving at the initial scene. Communication was also a challenge, as in certain parts of the nature reserve; the crew had no communication with the control centre. Fire also did not have any direct coms with other emergency services on scene and each emergency service had their own information regarding the incident.
The nature reserve is large and densely populated by trees, which blocked their view, shortened hearing range and made movement difficult. The final location of the child could only be accessed on foot, which was 500m from the roadway staging area. This staging area was located on freeway with very high traffic flow rate.
Due to the nature of illegal electrical connections and the fact the cable was run across the canal posed its own unique problems.
The incident was complete at 16h30 and the crew returned to station.
According to sources close to the investigation, Kyle O'Riley left his home in Seaview, in the south of Durban, with a friend. The boys attempted to cross the Umbilo River canal, near the M7 informal settlement.
Lee Bryant of Durban Metro Police Search and Rescue said that on Tuesday, 18 February 2020, the 17th Police Divers from Durban SAPS SAR and Metro Police SAR returned to the Umbilo River Canal in Bellair where the body of the boy was recovered. The cable that electrocuted the victim was traced back to a municipal light pole almost two kilometres away, where it had been illegally connected. The cable was disconnected by eThekwini electricity contractors and booked into the Bellair SAPS 13. The chief safety officer for eThekwini Electricity attended the scene.
Source: Brengur Britz, station commander, eThekwini Fire and Emergency Services, Lee Bryant, Durban Metro Police Search and Rescue and Times Live