Tebogo preached against deadly train surfing

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Tebogo Hlanyane, 18, saw the light and quit the deadly game of train "surfing" a year ago to become one of Metrorail's safety ambassadors.

But he died preaching his new creed. Like many other township teenagers of his age, Tebogo thrived on the daring and deadly "surfing" on top of moving trains.

Though he showed a natural talent for the pastime, he gave it up last October. Metrorail appointed him as one of its safety ambassadors, a corps of former surfers who spread the message of safety among their peers.

Surfers hop onto the roofs of fast-moving trains and execute similar moves like their wave-riding colleagues to evade the 6600-volt electric cables above their heads.

Tebogo, of Phiri in Soweto, was killed when he tried to remonstrate with surfers pulling their stunts on speeding trains near Merafe station last Friday.

He apparently tripped and tumbled under the moving train after jumping from one coach to another as he tried to dissuade other teenagers from playing the dangerous game. The safety ambassador was dead by the time he was retrieved from beneath the train.

As an ambassador, Tebogo and about 1000 other former surfers taught youngsters the dangers associated with their antics.

The Grade 10 pupil at Seana Marena High School in Phiri took up his new role with gusto last October. Fellow safety ambassadors say their dedicated friend had changed the lives of many and described him as "a true soldier" for the cause.

Tebogo's sister Nina said a few months ago a woman came to their home to speak to her brother after he had appeared on a television talk show.

"She said that her parents had died and the family was bothered that her brother was train surfing. She was scared so I asked Tebogo to pay them a visit.

"Tebogo went to their place and spoke to the boy. The woman later returned to our home and told me how Tebogo had inspired her brother to quit the dangerous game.

"That really touched me and it showed how dedicated he had been to the campaign," said Nina.

Pule Mabe of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation said he met Tebogo last year at a time when he and many of his friends lived by the credo "I will surf until I die".

Mabe said Tebogo's death was a loss, especially for the people he had impressed to give up the dangerous sport.

His memorial service will be held at Phiri Hall at 4pm today. The funeral service will take place at the hall at 8am on Saturday and he will buried at Avalon Cemetery at 10am.