Drowned Parktown Boys’ pupil ‘missing for hours’ before alarm raised

Parktown Boys High Grade 8 pupil, Enoch Mpianza, who died during a school orientation camp in Brits in the North West this week.
Parktown Boys High Grade 8 pupil, Enoch Mpianza, who died during a school orientation camp in Brits in the North West this week.
Image: Supplied

A Parktown Boys’ High School pupil  who drowned this week after his raft capsized during a school orientation camp near Brits in North West appears to have been missing for hours before the alarm was raised.

The body of the grade 8 pupil, Enoch Mpianza, 13, who  drowned in the Crocodile River on Wednesday, was found yesterday morning.

According to Col Adele Myburgh, the pupils had been divided into groups and were given material to build their own rafts with which to go down the river.

She said Enoch was with a group of about 12 pupils on one of these raft when it overturned on the river.

“It seems the currents were quite strong, and the last time the boy was seen was when some of his friends saw the raft overturn and children fell into the water,” Myburgh said.

She said teachers had realised during a roll-call that he was missing and police were alerted on Thursday.

"[Enoch] was reported missing on Thursday and police immediately activated a search team consisting of police divers and a dog unit, who searched until it became dark.”

Police divers discovered Enoch’s body at about 9.45am yesterday, about 3km from where he was reportedly last seen on Wednesday, Myburgh said.

“The search continued this morning [Friday] until his body was recovered.

“Initial information indicated the boy was participating in a team-building exercise, where learners were divided into groups to build rafts and then placed them in the river, to drift about 100-150m downstream.

“The current was very strong and at some stage the learners went under water as they were drifting.

“During roll-call by the teachers, it was realised that [Enoch]  was missing,” Myburgh said.

She added an inquest docket   had been opened by police to determine the cause and circumstances surrounding the death.

Gauteng education MEC  Panyaza  Lesufi said Enoch, whose family were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had wanted to be a lawyer.

“I’m told Enoch was a kind person,” Lesufi said yesterday during a briefing at Parktown Boys’ High School.

“His mother said when she woke him up on the day of the trip, he had told her he was not sleeping as he was excited to go on the trip.

“We were all devastated. We thought they would find him alive.

“It was a difficult task breaking the news to the family.

“Members of the family cried uncontrollably and are devastated.” 

Lesufi said about 200 pupils had attended the camp at a lodge in the area.

He said he was not aware whether the “people who assisted the children or the children themselves had life jackets or were given safety guidance”.

The MEC said  members of the community in  the area had helped to search for the missing boy.

“Farmers and workers literally dropped everything and came to help us.

“There was a light aircraft organised and the owner started searching.” 

It was not clear whether the pupils had immediately alerted teachers that Enoch was missing, or whether they even knew he was missing.

A parent of another grade 8 pupil  whose son had shared a room with Enoch at the camp said: “[My son] said they went hiking in the afternoon [after Enoch had disappeared].

“[He said] he didn’t see him [during the hike] but he didn’t think much of it,” the parent said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It was only when they got back to the room that an alarm was sounded that the boy had not been seen for hours,” the father of the traumatised boy said.

A parent who spoke to TimesLIVE said his confidence in the school was shaken.

“We only learnt this morning about the incident.

“They sent communication through in the morning, hours and hours after it happened.

“I think this was a messed-up manner of handling it,” he said.

“These things happen and no-one anticipates it to get this way.

“But how do they not regularly check the roll to ensure all the children are there?

“I mean, they were new to the environment and the school.”

Another parent, Julia Smith, said she had the same questions as everyone else.

“We all want to know how it happened but it’s obviously easy to criticise after the fact.

“The safety of children is a big problem that needs to be resolved.

“I’m still processing it too.

“I really don’t know what to make of it,” she said.

Indemnity forms signed by the parents of the children stated that neither the school, the department of education nor the lodge where the incident occurred could be held liable for any occurrences. — TimesLIVE 

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