By Krishnee Naidoo
It was a heartbreaking sight that confronted emergency and rescue personnel when they were dispatched to a house fire at Heysham Place that claimed the lives of two sisters, eight month-old, Nikita Lembethe, and her five-year-old sister, Sju on Sunday morning.
According to police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala, on Sunday at 5:05am, at Heysham Place, Phoenix, two children aged five and eight months old died when their house caught fire. “Circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated. An inquest docket is being investigated by Phoenix SAPS,” said Cpt Gwala.
Phoenix SAPS communications officer Cpt L Naidoo said, “The parents of the children were not present at the time of the fire. It is alleged that the couple had a dispute during the course of the night and the mother left to Bhambayi.
“It is further alleged that the husband locked the house and went in search of his wife. It is believed that a candle was left burning inside the house. At about 4:30am, the tenant from the upstairs room reported that she smelt smoke and began screaming.
The woman and her 10-year-old son could not breathe and jumped from the upstairs window.
The woman broke both her legs and the minor was treated for severe smoke inhalation. Both patients were transported to hospital.”
In an interview with the Phoenix Tabloid, the deceased girls’ maternal grandmother who resides in Whitecity, Princess Lembethe (43), said, “I have no words to explain how I feel. I used to care for the children. I used to see them every day. Now the babies are gone.”
Speaking to the Phoenix Tabloid, leader of the Democratic Liberal Congress (DLC) Patrick Pillay said that the community is very saddened by the loss of the children in the fire.
“I have visited the house and met with the grandmother and other family members. It is really unfortunate that the two siblings at Heysham were alone inside the house during the time of the fire.
“We are trying to assist the family in terms of disaster management and we call on the community and business owners to help this family with funeral arrangements for the two deceased children,” said Cllr Pillay.
He added, “During the past two months I have attended to four dwellings that caught alight whereby families lost almost everything inside their house including clothing. I want to call on the community to be very cautious when dealing with candles and other flammable items especially during this winter season.”
Phoenix Community Police Forum chairman, Umesh Singh said, “This is a tragedy that should never have occurred. Two innocent lives were lost in a most painful way.
These children burned to death. The adults responsible for these children must be held accountable for the loss of lives. The deaths of children are too high a price for possible negligence.
This matter will be investigated thoroughly and the findings will determine what punishment befits the act in question.”