Three young brothers, Norman Khoza (9), Given Matlala (7) and Laurence Khoza (14) tragically lost their lives when a fire broke out, completely destroying the wooden house they were sleeping in at the Jedidiah Safehaven in Hartbees-poort on Tuesday evening.
The three young boys were orphaned and had been in the Safehaven’s care for the past 14 months.
The two younger boys had gone to bed around 20:00 on Tuesday night while Laurence still helped in the kitchen for a while before going to bed, a very distraught Safehaven director Stephanie Bentley said yesterday.
Shortly after 21:00 Stephanie’s daughter Barbare looked out her bedroom window and saw flames outside.
“The three boys’ wooden house was on fire and my husband Rob stormed out and tried to get to the children. However, the flames were too hot and he suffered burn wounds to his chest and arms.”
“We did not hear any screams or calls for help. Police on the scene said in many cases people suffer smoke inhalation and pass out.”
Safehaven personnel and helpers tried to put the fire out while waiting for the fire brigades. However, when the emergency services and the police arrived, the room was already scalded by the strong blaze. The children were burnt beyond recognition.
Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said the children from Mothutlung, were placed in the Safehaven’s care by the Department of Social Services and the Magistrates Court after their parents died last year.
The remaining 31 children, who were sleeping elsewhere were kept away from the scene and only told about the three boys’ death on Wednesday afternoon.
“The children were writing examinations on Wednesday and I felt we could not upset them before going to school.”
Members of a local church were assisting the Safehaven and helped with counselling after the children were told.
At this stage the cause of the fire is unknown to the police and forensic experts are conducting investigations in order to determine what started it, Brig Ngubane said.
The police have opened an inquest dossier.
The investigation continues.