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South African Army mourns loss of four soldiers in road accident outside Upington

South African Army mourns loss of four soldiers in road accident outside Upington
From left: SA Army soldiers killed in Upington crash Tsepo Stranger Pieterson, Tsepang Moses Petlane, Chahiem Neville Samuels and Lebogang Siko. (Photos: Supplied)

The South African National Defence Force has held a combined memorial service in Upington for four soldiers who died in a road accident on 20 September. They will be buried separately at their respective homes.

In a solemn memorial, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) bid farewell to four of its own, who lost their lives in an accident that occurred a week ago.

The deceased have been identified as Private Tsepang Moses Petlane, Rifleman Chahiem Neville Samuels, Rifleman Lebogang Siko and Rifleman Tsepo Stranger Pieterson.

The soldiers, members of 8 South African Infantry Battalion, were travelling from Upington in the Northern Cape to Lohatlha.

One military vehicle was towing another at the time. A front tyre burst on the truck being towed and both vehicles overturned. The four soldiers were flung from the truck they were travelling in and were killed when the other vehicle landed on them. They were declared dead on the scene.

Two soldiers were critically injured and were rushed to Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington, while nine others were treated for minor injuries. 

A memorial service was held for the four soldiers on Wednesday at the army base in Upington. Family members, friends and fellow soldiers gathered to pay their last respects.

Private Petlane will be laid to rest on 30 September in Zastron; Rfn Samuels will be buried on 20 September in Koffiefontein; Rfn Siko will be buried on the same day in Soweto, and Rfn Pieterson will be interred on 7 October in Kimberley.

Lieutenant Colonel T Joseph, officer commanding 8 SAI, expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased.

“As a unit, we grieve the lives of such honourable soldiers who have departed from the mechanised families. As soldiers of the South African Army, we are often faced with occurrences of brave tales, but this serves as the most heart-wrenching tribute.

“The characters and personalities witnessed give testimonies to the high standard of upbringing and good homes the beloveds came from. Many who were honoured to serve alongside these soldiers have received nothing but respect and genuine adoration.”

Joseph bid an emotional farewell to his soldiers: “As the time of presenting the final salute approaches, we shall mark your presence in the sands of time. The life of a soldier is difficult not because of the expectations, but the courage to fight on when morale has been tested. The sacrifice made keeps our flag high and is not moved because the wind blows but by the souls of all who die protecting it.”

Also extending their condolences were Defence Minister Thandi Modise, Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla, SANDF Chief General Rudzani Maphwanya and SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha.

Naval tragedy

Also on 20 September, three Navy personnel died in a submarine incident off Kommetjie, Cape Town. They were Lieutenant Commander Gillian Elizabeth Hector, Master Warrant Officer William Masela Mathipa and Warrant Officer Mmokwapa Lucas Mojela.

The tragedy occurred when a wave swept them and four other crew members off the deck of the submarine and into a particularly rough sea. An inquiry into the incident is under way. DM

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