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Photo opportunity turns tragic

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A photo opportunity on the banks of the Vaal River turned into a tragedy for the Hendricks family in Longlands after a father and his young daughter drowned.

A father and his nine-year-old daughter drowned in the Vaal River near Longlands on Monday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A PHOTO opportunity on the banks of the Vaal River turned into a tragedy for the Hendricks family in Longlands after a father and his young daughter drowned.

The father, Martinus Hendricks, 45, and his nine-year-old daughter, Faith, drowned in the river on Monday after he tried to rescue her.

Hendricks was a former ANC ward councillor while his daughter was a Grade 3 pupil at Delportshoop Combined School.

The tragedy happened when the family took their guests, who were visiting from Johannesburg, on a sightseeing tour to the river to take pictures.

The family explained on Thursday that young Faith had slipped and fallen into the river at the Sydney on Vaal bridge while other family members were busy taking photographs.

The father immediately jumped into the river to rescue his daughter, but the current was too strong and it carried them deeper into the fast-flowing river.

The incident happened just after 4pm.

Their bodies were found the following day, Tuesday, at around 10am near the Rooikoppies bridge in Delportshoop.

The bodies were found “trapped among the rocks” by members of the community approximately 2km from where the pair were last seen.

They said that Faith’s body was found about 500 metres from that of her father.

On Thursday, a teary-eyed member of the Hendricks family, Eugene Williams, told of how his uncle, Martinus, and Faith had fought the strong current to try and keep from being separated.

Martinus, he said, was regarded as one of the strongest swimmers in the township and many expected him to know that part of the river like the palm of his hand and to make it to safety.

Williams said he watched as his uncle “fought in the water” to get his daughter to safety.

“The water was extremely high, much higher than it is today (Thursday),” Williams said.

“After he (Martinus) jumped in, the current drove them through the culvert under the bridge and within seconds we saw them come out a few metres away from us.

“When we saw him pop up, he still had the child wrapped around his back and was still trying to swim.

“But the river was strong and they were now in the middle of the river, far away from the banks.

“I was running along the river bank with the hope of directing him to where it was safe.

“It was clear to everyone that his struggle was real.

“Everyone had hoped that he might make it to safety.

“It was unbelievably shocking. Everyone went crazy, some were screaming, and felt helpless, afraid of jumping into the furious river.”

The family expressed disappointment regarding the “lack of interest” apparently displayed by the police when they called to report the matter.

They claimed that the police never came to help.

A search party was established by the community and the bodies were found the next day.

Another nephew, Franklin Louw-Hendricks, said they stopped the search on Monday evening, at around 1am, when they realised that they couldn’t see anything in the dark.

He said he was not present during the sightseeing trip but had received a call after the incident.

He said the message spread among the entire community “like lightning” and everyone offered to help, except for the police, he added, who were continuously called and given updates.

He added that the children of one of the local police officers volunteered to search in the river because they are good swimmers.

“More than 60 people volunteered to join the search because Hendricks was a popular man in the community.

“After calling off the search due to the darkness, we returned to the river at 4am on Tuesday morning and continued the search on foot with torches.”

He said they still had a glimmer of hope that they might find his uncle and the child alive.

“We spotted the bodies at around 10am after a very long walk,’ said Louw-Hendricks.

“The SAPS Search and Rescue team only arrived on Tuesday at around noon and went into the river to retrieve the bodies.

“The ambulance and the forensic services arrived afterwards.”

Martinus Hendricks, 45, and his nine-year-old daughter, Faith, drowned. Picture: Soraya Crowie

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