Toddler drowns in bucket of water

Lee-Anne Butler

A PORT Elizabeth toddler died tragically after she fell into a bucket of water and drowned while trying to reach for her toy.

Shattered Korsten mom Tarryn van Vuuren said her daughter, 14-month-old Brooklyn-Armani, would still have been alive today if it were not for the water crisis that had caused some suburbs, especially in the northern areas, to be without water for a week so far.

“If there had been [a normal water supply], my daughter would still be alive.

“I do not blame anyone for her death because it was God’s will.

“But I know if there had still been water flowing through the taps, this would never have happened,” she said.

The water supply has been erratic in some suburbs since Thursday last week, when two pipelines from the Churchill and Impofu dams collapsed near the Van Stadens River Resort, causing seven of the 54 reservoirs to run dry and leaving more than a third of the city without water. While the supply has been restored to most suburbs, some residential areas such as Gelvandale, Parkside and Gelvan Park are still relying on municipal water tankers to deliver water.

Meanwhile, residents have been stockpiling water in bottles and buckets and storing them in their homes.

Van Vuuren said Brooklyn had been in the care of a close friend, who had been looking after her for the past few months while Van Vuuren was at work, when the incident occurred on Wednesday.

“I was working the night shift this week, so I was sleeping when I got the call around 1.20pm,” the distraught mom said. “I was told she had fallen into a bucket of water and that I needed to go straight to Livingstone Hospital.

“But when I got there she was already gone.”

She said there had been a bucket of water in the lobby of the Avalon Crescent, Gelvandale, home of Brooklyn’s child-minder which the family kept filled due to the water shortage in the area.

“Her toy fell into the bucket and she tried to get it, and that is how she drowned.

“I used to read about children who drowned in buckets in the townships, and I remember thinking how ridiculous that was.

“But now I know that when they are that age they are inquisitive and love to explore. That is how Brooklyn was.

“She is not gone because anyone was negligent. She is gone because of the water problem.”

Van Vuuren also has an eight-year-old son, Christian.

Her friend Lucelle Muniz, of Gelvandale, said she also blamed the water shortage for Brooklyn’s death.

“It has been seven days now and we are still without water.

“I call the call centre every day, with no success. It is so frustrating to think that this did not have to happen.

“Someone at the call centre said they had to prioritise other areas like Newton Park because of all the businesses there, but what about our people? Why are we not prioritised?”

She described Brooklyn as a beautiful, joyful and inquisitive child who had always been smiling.

Van Vuuren said the irony was that Brooklyn had loved playing in water and would usually cry when she was taken out of the bath.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said police had opened an inquest docket. He said the aunt who had been taking care of Brooklyn had stepped away for a few minutes when the toddler leant over a 25-litre bucket of water and fell in.

“The child was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival,” he said.

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said while it was tragic that a toddler had drowned, a bucket of water could have been at the house on any given day.

“It is very sad that this girl lost her life but, if you put it into perspective, this girl had access to the bucket. It has nothing to do with the municipality,” he said.

He said contractors had made excellent progress in fixing the water supply problems and were working through the night.

On the issue of certain suburbs being prioritised, Baron said: “This is not the case at all. It was never about prioritising areas.”

Muniz said Brooklyn’s funeral would be held at the latest on Monday.

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