At one stage the lodge says there were eight pupils who could not be accounted for.
Johannesburg – Nyati Bush and River Break has broken their silence in regards to the events that took place on their property when 13-year-old Enoch Mpianzi tragically drowned last week.
Nyati’s legal representative Daniël Eloff from Hurter Spies Inc released a statement on behalf of the lodge where he broke down what happened during the Parktown Boys’ High School Grade 8 orientation camp from January 15-17.
Enoch was found on Thursday after a water raft he and other learners had built overturned on the Crocodile River.
Eloff said the pupils were accompanied by the headmaster Malcolm Williams, seven staff members and a number of prefects on Wednesday. The scheduled arrival time was 11 am however the buses arrived more than three hours late forcing the schedule to be adjusted.
He said the pupils participated in an activity known as stretcher-run that was allegedly supervised by 17 camp facilitators as well as school staff members and allegedly only one part of the activity involved the river.
“Participants, who were working in teams of more or less seven each, had to pass through about 20 metres of a shallow bend on the outside edge of the river-bank, with one member on a stretcher which had to be improvised as a raft, supported by four tubes and the remaining team members supporting and steering the tubes and stretcher,” said Eloff.
The attorney said eight of the 17 camp facilitators and some school staff members were deployed at the Crocodile Riverside to assist the pupils.
“The children participating in the activity were excited and competitive. The groups were eager to finish first and started to overtake other groups in the water,” he said.
This is when the situation became dangerous as groups, despite clear instructions to the contrary, moved into the deep end of the river where the current was strong.
“The facilitators had to help three groups to get out of the water. At no stage did the facilitators noticed that any of the group members were swept away, but the specific activity was immediately terminated when the dangers were realised,” he said.
After the activity, the pupils went on a hike and supper followed by a sleep-out in the veld. On the Wednesday evening, roll-call was held by the school staff, where it was realised that eight pupils were unaccounted for.
“Unfortunately, no roll-call was held at the school before the departure of the pupils, so there was uncertainty amongst the school staff whether the eight absent pupils were actually attending the camp at all,” he said.
After contacting the parents of the eight unaccounted pupils, it only became apparent that Enoch was missing on Thursday morning.
Eloff said internal standard emergency procedures were immediately instituted by the camp management, staff and members of the community. The SAPS Emergency Services were also contacted to assist with the search and rescue efforts.
“At 11 am on Friday we were informed of the tragic news that the body of Enoch Mpianzi had been found by SAPS Search and Rescue personnel,” he said.
The Nyati Bush and River Break staff and management expressed their condolences to the Mpianzi family following this tragic loss.
“We share the pain of Enoch’s loved ones. Our staff are also receiving counselling for the trauma and shock,” Elloff concluded.
On Wednesday, the Mpianzi family and the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) arrived at the lodge to a locked gate.
SAHRC provincial head Buang Jones said the owners of the camp had initially agreed to a site inspection. However, they had changed their minds and said that they would be consulting their legal representatives.
The family and the SAHRC, however, took matters into their own hands and jumped the fence. Jones said Section 16 of the Human Rights Act allowed them access to any premises.
Eloff said Nyati Bush and River Break would provide full cooperation and assistance to all investigations conducted as well as provide access to the property.