Johannesburg – A man who tried to save seven children from drowning in a flooded river died together with them when they were all swept away.
While the bodies of the man and six children were recovered, the body of one of the children is still missing. The incident happened on Sunday morning in Steynsrus, Free State.
Free State police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele said officers received a complaint about a white Honda Ballade that had been swept away into a river at Somerset East farm.
According to him, the information they received was that there were three girls and four boys in the car as well as the driver, Tshokolo Hlongwane, 26, and two other men, Mohau Mokoena and Swartbooi Hlongwane.
Makhele said at the time of the incident, Hlongwane was driving on a farm that had low lying bridges. It was also raining at the time and the nearby river was flooded. The water then overpowered the vehicle and swept it into the river, he said.
“The two males and the driver managed to get out of the vehicle and escaped but the driver went back into the water to try and save the children from drowning and was also swept away by water.
“All seven children drowned and the police divers managed to recover six bodies of the kids and the body of the driver. The body of the seventh child is still missing.
The children have been identified as: Thapelo Tekanya, a 4-year-old boy, Ntaoleng Mpeko, a 13-year-old girl, Relebohile Mpeko, a 9 year-old girl, Mojalefa Mosibi, a 12-year-old boy, Bokamoso Maphakisa, an 8-year-old boy and Hopolang Monyatsi, a 6-year-old girl. Police divers are still looking for the body of Karabo Kok, a 7-year-old boy.
Makhele said it was not yet known where the children and the men were coming from or going as that would form part of the investigation. An inquest docket has been opened, he said.
Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane, sent condolences to the families of the deceased. “It is so heartbreaking for any parent to lose a child in this manner. Our condolences goes to all these families who were affected by this tragedy.”