Picture – Catherine Marais stands next to the burnt out shell of her mother’s home.
(Information compiled by Noel Solomons)
Annette Magdalena Marais, the sixty five year old mother of Catherine and grandmother of Christopher ‘Seuntjie’, lost her life when her RDP home on the cul de sac off Luthango Street was engulfed in flames between 3.30 and 4am on Mother’s Day morning. Whilst the authorities are still investigating what ignited the fire, the family believe that her stove being left on could have been the cause.
According to Annette’s adult grandson Christopher ‘Seuntjie’ Marais, who had been staying with her at the time, he had woken up in the early hours of the morning of Sunday 14 May to go to the toilet, and when he walked past the stove he saw that it had been left on. He asked his grandmother why, and she instructed him to leave it on as she wanted to light a cigarette and return to the warmth of her bed, so he proceeded out to the ‘out house’ situated a short way away from the home.
Marais said he thinks he was away for about 15 minutes, and on returning realised that something was terribly wrong. Opening the front door he found that a fire had started inside the small home, and was already engulfing the main room. After shouting for his grandmother he tried going further in, but the flames were already too fierce.
Hearing his shouting, neighbours came rushing over to help, but there was little they could do. Someone tried connecting a hosepipe at a nearby property to try and spray the blaze – but this didn’t help as the water pressure was too weak. A man tried rushing in wrapped in a wet blanket to see if he could rescue Annette, but even then the heat was just too intense.
The fire department’s vehicle also came but the fire had been so horribly fierce that the everything had been burned within minutes, and there was nothing they could do to save the elderly occupant.
Catherine, Annette’s only child, who lives in the same cul de sac, diagonally opposite her mother’s home, says that someone woke her at about 03.40am. Rushing out she was horror stricken to see the fire and smoke pouring out from the RDP house, but she too could do nothing but stand and watch in horror. She says that other than the fire there was no noise coming from inside the house, so she hopes her mother didn’t suffer, but passed away from inhaling the smoke.
She is still reeling from the shock of losing her mother in such a tragic way. “I had seen her just a few hours earlier in the afternoon,” she recalls, “We were sitting right here on the side of the road, in the sun, and she came out and sat with us for a while.”