Three kids die as fire brigade personnel 'fumble'

Kamogelo Seekoei

Kamogelo Seekoei

After rough-housing for a while and eating their yoghurt, three small boys went to bed with aspirations of becoming a priest, a police officer and a soldier.

But for Ofentse Molefe, 10, Johnny Ngubeni, seven, and Lucky Modipane, seven, those dreams went up in smoke.

The three boys were burnt to death in their aunt's house in the early hours of yesterday morning in Kagiso on the West Rand.

Dudu Simelane, 53, the woman who was baby-sitting the three boys at the time, survived the blaze unscathed.

In her last conversation with the boys they told her they wanted to become a priest, a police officer and a soldier .

Simelane said when she realised that the fire, which had earlier been extinguished after an electric blanket caught alight, had broken out again, she woke the children so that they could get out quickly.

But the bedroom became an inferno while she was still struggling to remove the burglar proofing from the window. During the struggle the children screamed for help.

Eventually she had to jump through the bedroom window leaving the children behind.

Her daughter, Celesta Simelane, who had adopted Johnny Ngubeni, said it was the most devastating thing she had ever witnessed.

She said she was disappointed by the conduct of the fire brigade personnel who had arrived unprepared.

"They had to return three times because they did such a bad job," Simelane said. "They ran out of water twice and only changed into their fire-fighting gear when they got here."

She said the children would probably have been saved had they come prepared.

Gauteng MEC for housing Nomvula Mokonyane expressed her condolences and said her department was devastated by the loss.

She said they would try to help the family.

Celesta's uncle, Khehla Simelane, said the family needed food, clothes and accommodation and was appealing for help.

Mokonyane said her department and the mayor of Mogale City were already mobilising to start an investigation.

"We will investigate the conduct of the service providers who were on the scene and drastic action will be taken against whoever had not done their job well," she said.

Emergency services authorities in Krugersdorp said they would only be able to comment today.