World Oceans Day

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Free State drownings: Priest, seven others confirmed dead

There has been a spate of tragic drowning incidents at various locations in the Free State over the past week.

World Oceans Day

Image: Supplied

A spate of tragic drownings in the Free State has prompted law enforcement to warn the public to take great care when enjoying rivers and dams over the festive season. At least seven people have been confirmed to have drowned in the Province in the last week alone. 

Among the deceased is a priest and one of his constituents, who disappeared into the a river during a baptism ceremony. 

Police confirm spate of drownings  

In a statement released on Tuesday, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said that various drowning incidents have been reported at a host of locations around the Free State. The following drownings have been confirmed: 

In Rosendal, two children aged 13 and 17-years old and two adults drowned when the driver of their car attempted to manoeuvre through a flooded road.  The bodies of one child and two males were recovered, but the body of one 13-year-old is still missing.

SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele said that in Oranjeville, a man and his family were drinking liquor before he disappeared.  

“His wife went to look for him and saw him in the middle of the river.  The wife summoned his brothers and family members to near the river, the deceased was seen waving to the family and disappeared under water.  SAPS Water Wing was summoned to the scene and his body was recovered,” he said. 

At police were summoned to a river near Ikemeleng Cattle Post in Botshabelo after the body of missing 34-year-old male was discovered after he was reported missing on 23 December 2021. In Senekal, A 41-year-old drowned at the De Put River after he attempted to cross the over flowing river on 21 December 2021.  

In Bothaville, a 21-year-old priest took his church members to the river near Kroonstad for baptism. 

“While in the process of baptism, the priest and 41-year-old woman disappeared in the water. Their bodies were found by divers kilometres away from the drowning scene,” said Makhele.

Communities urged to exercise caution 

Following the spate of tragic incidents, SAPS have strongly urged communities to take care. 

“As the police in the Free State province we wish to urge communities staying near rivers or streams not to attempt crossing to the other side while under the influence of any substance or just tempted to take such risk,” said Makhele.  

“We also advice churches to try and suspend any activities involving the use of rivers and dams as the level of water has increased and the pressure of the flowing water is high during this raining season.  This is to avoid having more drownings and loss of life.”