The three SA Navy members who died while trying to save workers from a gas leak at Naval Base Durban last Friday have been named.
They are Leading Seaman Amrithlall Tothara Ramdin (41) from Naval Base Durban and resident on The Bluff; Able Seaman Francois William Mundell (26) from SAS Makhanda of George, Western Cape and Seaman Henro Ter Borg (21) of the SA Navy Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) of Brackenfell, Cape Town. The MRS member was deployed to Durban for this week’s Armed Forces Day events.
The men died after they were called to help Department of Public Works staff overcome by gas fumes while working in a sewerage pit. According to a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) statement a sewage valve they were working on developed a leak and the unidentified gas, probably methane, affected their breathing.
“They tried to escape the pit but were overwhelmed by toxic gas and passed out. One contractor ran for assistance and approached a passing bus carrying MRS and other SAN members.
“Three SANDF members reacted unselfishly with the intention of saving the lives of their fellow countrymen but unfortunately succumbed to the high levels of fumes in the pit and died,” the statement said.
Further assistance arrived at the accident site and other sailors and soldiers descended. Using a compressed air breathing apparatus they brought six people, including the three SAN members, out.
“All resuscitation attempts failed and paramedics declared the three SAN members and three Public Works staff dead,” the statement said, adding a further 24 sailors and soldiers were taken to the nearby St Augustin’s hospital for treatment.
“They all had chest X-rays and with one exception, were cleared and allowed to leave. A lone sailor from Naval Base Durban was hospitalised for further observation.”
SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke said he was proud to lead a military with patriotic servicemen and women who are always ready to respond to the call of duty and put their lives on the line.
“Those sailors who laid down their lives did so to save the lives of fellow South Africans in distress and their actions are commended,” Shoke said.
“We are devastated by the deaths of these hard working soldiers and their colleagues. It is really tragic for all of them to lose their lives in this manner,” President Jacob Zuma said. “This is a painful and traumatic time for the families and for all of us. This happens just when we were preparing to join the SANDF in Durban for the Armed Forces Day celebration which also marks the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families at this difficult and painful time”.