Home South African Cape Town teen saves father, sisters from deadly blaze

Cape Town teen saves father, sisters from deadly blaze


The devastating fire claimed a family of four.

Cape Town – Lotus River teenager Claudine Abels has recounted how she managed to save her father and two sisters from a devastating fire which claimed a family of four yesterday.

When the 17-year-old was awoken by thick smoke engulfing her house, which she shared with her father

Raymond and two younger sisters, instinct kicked in and she dragged the minors out before going back for

her dad.

“While I was taking my father outside, I could see my grandfather crawling, trying to escape the fire. I was too late to rescue him,” she said.

Attached to Abels’ house is a shack, in which 80-year-old Vellem October, his son Brandon May, 46, his wife

Sonia, 45, and their 6-year-old son Jaden Jantjies lived.

They were all killed in the fire. It is not clear what started the blaze.

The family had been living in Raymond’s backyard for more than 30 years.

Still visibly shaken by the incident yesterday, Abels said she tried in vain to save the family.

“I tried my best to save the other people, but I was all by myself. The smoke made me dizzy, I was choking on the flames. The fire and smoke were overwhelming, and I could not see,” said Abels.

Neighbours called the emergency services when they heard Abels screaming.

City Fire and Rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said a team responded to the fire in Cuckoo Crescent at around 2am yesterday.

“Fire crews from Ottery and Wynberg were confronted by both structures alight. Bystanders reported people missing.

“The bodies of two men, a woman and a child were found with fatal burn wounds. The fire was extinguished at 3.35am and a chaplain was requested to assist the family,” said Carelse.

Disaster risk spokesperson Charlotte Powell said trauma counselling had been offered to Abels.

“The City’s Informal Settlement Management Department has made

an assessment and will provide the family with a starter kit to rebuild,” said Powell.

When the Cape Times visited the scene yesterday, neighbours discovered what appeared to be body parts, suspected to be Jaden’s.

There was nothing left for the families to recover, as the fire destroyed everything.

Abels said she would miss Jaden, as they had formed a bond.

“I hoped that I would be able to rescue my grandfather and Jaden,” she said.

October’s older sister, Maria, said she was still in shock, as they only had each other.

“I did not expect him to die this way. To lose a loved one this way is very painful and devastating. He was my only brother left, now I am left alone,” said Maria.

Ward Councillor William Akim lauded residents who helped the families.

“I was impressed by my community members’ response to the incident. It shows that we have each other’s back at all times here.”

Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said no foul play was suspected and inquests have been opened for investigation.

Cape Times

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