Zuma remembers 6 who died in naval base freak accident

By News24
21 Feb 2017 0

Durban - President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday used the Armed Forces Day parade to remember the six people who tragically died in last week's freak accident at the Durban naval base.

Zuma sent his condolences to the families of three South African National Defence Force soldiers who died when they were overcome by methane gas fumes, inhaled when they went into a sewage pit to try and save three public works contract workers who were screaming for help.

Leading seaman Amrithlall Tothara Ramdin, 41, from Naval Base Durban residing in Bluff; able seaman Francois William Mundell, 26, from Sas Makhanda from George in the Western Cape; and seaman Henro Ter Borg, 21, from Maritime Reaction Squadron, residing in Brackenfell, Cape Town, all died.

The army previously said Ter Borg had been on a tour of duty in Durban for the 2017 Armed Forces Day celebrations.

The army said the funeral arrangements for the soldiers would be announced in due course.

The incident happened last Friday. While members of the Department of Public Works were working on a sewage valve, gas fumes leaked out and affected their breathing.

The army said the workers had tried to escape the pit, but were overwhelmed by the toxic gases and passed out.

One contractor ran for assistance and approached the Maritime Reaction Squadron bus which was passing nearby.

The three SANDF members tried to save the lives of the workers, but died after succumbing to the high levels of fumes in the pit.

As more assistance arrived, more SANDF members descended into the pit through a Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus and recovered the six bodies. Paramedics on the scene conducted the final assessment and declared all six people dead.

Twenty-four other members that assisted with the recovery of the bodies were taken to St Augustine Hospital, where they were treated for shortness of breath. All members underwent chest X-rays and were cleared.

SS Mendi

Zuma also used the occasion to remember the men who died when the SS Mendi sank, thanking men and women in uniform for their continued sacrifice.

The troop ship carrying South African soldiers to France, sank in the English Channel near the Isle of Wight, following a collision with a cargo steamship on February 21, 1917. A total of 646 people died, most of them members of the South African Native Labour Corps.

Earlier, he handed out medals to soldiers who had displayed acts of bravery and those who had served in the army for a long period.

Soldiers and doctors who looked after former president Nelson Mandela were also recognised. DM