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Man dies in shack fire

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Family, including one-month old baby and two other young children, narrowly escape flames

DESTITUTE: Theodora and Jeanette Booysen outside their home that was destroyed in the fire. Photo: Soraya Crowie

A CLUB 2000 man burnt to death in a shanty fire, while his family, including a one-month-old baby and two other young children, narrowly escaped the flames.

Thato Moshwang, 35, died despite desperate attempts to save him from the fire.

His family has been left destitute and all their possessions have been destroyed, leaving them with nothing except the clothes they were wearing when the fire broke out in the early hours of Monday morning.

According to Moshwang’s girlfriend, Theodora Booysen, she and Moshwang had been staying together in the shanty which is attached to her mother’s house.

Booysen said that she had moved into the four-room main house after she gave birth to her baby.

“There were two shanties attached to the main house. Thato and I stayed in the one shanty and my mother used the other one as a kitchen. There is a door from the main house into the kitchen. Our room was right next to the kitchen. I moved into the house as our culture prohibits a woman from staying with a man after giving birth and while she is still breastfeeding,” said Booysen.

She said that on Monday night she was woken up by her mother who told her that Moshwang was screaming.

“My mother was sleeping in one of the bedrooms with my sister’s two-year-old child. I was sleeping in the other bedroom with my 11-year-old child, as well as my newborn baby. My mother told me to wake up as Thato was screaming for me to open the door. The house was full of smoke and it was very hot inside. I rushed to the kitchen door and could still hear him screaming.

“I kicked down the kitchen door and I could see Thato inside the shanty. There were flames everywhere. As I tried to open the shanty door, Thato became silent and I heard him fall to the ground. After I kicked down the door to the shanty, the flames came rushing up towards me. I screamed for help and a neighbour came to my aid.”

Booysen said that she then remembered that she had left the rest of her family inside the main house.

“The flames were very high and spreading fast. I realised that my children and mother were still inside the house. I rushed to my baby and child. The house was dark and full of smoke and it was very difficult to see anything. I shouted for my mother and saw her pushing the two-year-old through the window and then trying to climb through the window herself.”

Booysen’s mother, Jeanette Booysen, 64, said she was pulled through the window by one of her neighbours.

“I grabbed the two-year-old child and pushed her through the window as I saw the flames were starting to engulf the house. The windows of the house cracked and some were broken. As I tried to clamour through the window I could feel the heat on the window frame. One of my neighbours pulled me through the window. I hurt my leg but I didn’t even notice as I was very worried about my grandchildren and Thato,” Jeanette said.

One of the first neighbours on the scene, Joseph Mokone, said that they had tried in vain to save Moshwang.

“The women’s screams woke me up and I rushed to my door. I saw the shanty was burning and the flames were very high. I shouted at another neighbour to connect a hosepipe so that we could extinguish the blaze. Another neighbour at the back of the house pushed her hosepipe over the wall and we tried to douse the flames. It was, however, not helping as the flames kept spreading faster than we could extinguish them,” said Mokone.

“We eventually managed to bring the blaze under control but it was too late to save Moshwang. The fire brigade arrived later but there was not much left of the fire for them to put out. Moshwang was lying behind the door and it appeared as though he had tried to escape but was overcome by the flames.”

The devastated family said they were now totally dependent on donations from neighbours as they had not only lost a life but their entire belongings.

“Our kitchen, with all our food, was destroyed. We do not have any kitchen cabinets or even electrical appliances. The only food we have is that which has been given to us by our neighbours. Even the clothing we are wearing has been donated to us.”

Booysen added that they did not know how they were going to raise the necessary funds to bury Moshwang.

“We are all unemployed. The only income we have is my mother’s pension. Our home is also a mess as the walls are black and damaged by the fire and there is no electricity. We have to still stare at the trauma caused by the fire as we were told not to dispose of anything until the investigation has been completed,” she said.

Police spokesperson, Sergeant Majang Skalkie, said that the police are investigating the incident.

“The police in Kagisho have opened an inquest after a shack in Club 2000 caught fire in the early hours of Monday morning. It is believed that the deceased was alone inside the shack. The police are investigating the cause of the fire.”