“Save my babies!” Those were the last words the family of Bongekha Mehlo heard her say as she passed her children to them through the window of her burning shack in Dunoon last week.
Her 10-year-old daughter, Sinesipho, did not make it out of the blaze.
Ms Mehlo, 29, and her three children were taken to hospital just after 11pm on Monday, August 9, but she succumbed to her injuries on Wednesday, August 11.
Her 6-year-old, 2-year-old and 16-week-old baby are in Groote Schuur Hospital’s ICU, according to Nosisi Msuthwana, Ms Mehlo’s cousin.
Two fires broke out in separate incidents in Dunoon on Monday August 9, according to the City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse.
The fire broke out just after 3am in the ZweZwe informal settlement in Dunoon, where one man died of burn wounds and another was electrocuted while trying to save him from his burning shack.
Fire crews from Milnerton, Brooklyn and Melkbosstrand were called to the scene.
The second fire, involving Ms Mehlo and her children, broke out just after 10.30pm.
One shack was destroyed in the fire and Sinesipho’s charred body was found beneath the debris in Mnandi Avenue, in Dunoon.
“An adult female (Ms Mehlo) sustained 80% second and third degree burns and was transported to hospital. In addition, one female minor sustained minor burns, and it was reported to the officer in charge that two minors were removed from the shack and transported to hospital, prior to their arrival,” said Mr Carelse.
Fire crews from Bellville, Goodwood and Milnerton fought the fire.
Mr Carelse said that the cause of the fire had not yet been determined and police were investigating.
Ms Msuthwana spoke to Tabletalk on behalf of the family who she said were “distraught and are battling to come to terms with the deaths”.
The family were trying to understand how the fire happened at the one-bedroom shack because all Ms Mehlo’s belongings were still intact, she said.
“Her Tupperware bakkies (bowls), the fridge and gas tank they used to cook food on are still in a good condition,” she said.
The family were cooking meals for mourners with the same gas tank that had been salvaged from the fire, she said.
Ms Msuthwana said she had been unable to visit Ms Mehlo in her final hours at Somerset Hospital and was still unable to visit her children due to hospital Covid-19 regulations.
“The only memory I have of my cousin that keeps replaying in my mind is when she was shouting hysterically and passed her children to people who watched her house go up in flames.”
She described Ms Mehlo as a “happy and joyful,” person who, up until her last, cared deeply about her children.
“She loved her children so much that she thought only about saving their lives.”
Sinesipho, she said, was a child of her own will and would forever be remembered for her friendliness.
Tabletalk was unable to reach families of the other fire victims. ZweZwe community leader Vuyelewa Gotjana said the families of the two men, who were 33 and 49, were preparing for their funerals and did not wish to comment at this stage.
Ward 104 councillor Lubabalo Makeleni said the four deaths had left Dunoon “shocked and saddened”.
He called on the public to help Ms Mehlo’s family who have run out of money to bury their loved ones.
Ms Mehlo and Sinesipho will be buried in the Eastern Cape once the children have been discharged from hospital.
Call Nosisi Msuthwana at 072 602 8491 or Mr Makeleni at 067 269 4090 if you would like to help the family.