The family and friends of the 16-year-old boy from Gledhow who recently drowned at Blythedale beach are battling to come to terms with their loss.
Thami Hlongwane was swept out to sea last week Monday and his body was found three days later on Zikwazi beach.
“Hlongwane was my brother’s friend and they had asked me, as an older brother, to take them to the beach. We did not even spend 10 minutes at the beach and he was gone,” said Sboniso Mthembu (22).
Mthembu said he was just relaxing on the sand, busy on his cell phone, when he heard people screaming “Aw yahamba ingane” meaning the child is going away.
“I lifted up my head and realised that it was him. We tried to call the lifeguards, but they had already left. We called the emergency services people and we waited there hoping that they would arrive soon and rescue him. However, after 30 minutes I began to lose hope,” said Mthembu.
Also read: Body of Blythedale drowning victim found
Thami was a grade nine pupil at the Chief Albert Luthuli Secondary School in Tshawini.
His uncle, Thulebuka Mhlongo, described him as a shy boy who liked to dance and spend time with his friends.
“I really do not understand what they were doing at the beach so late because they knew that it was not safe at that time. My heart is broken by the loss of my nephew,” said Mhlongo.
KwaDukuza lifeguard superintendent Bongani Xulu said he believes that Thami was caught up in a rip current.
“Where there are rocks there is always a rip and people should, by all means, try and avoid swimming near the rocks,” said Xulu.
He said the lifeguards work until 4pm during out of season (May to mid-November) and until 6pm during the in season (mid-November to April).
Xulu urged the public to only swim when lifeguards were on duty.
What to do if you are caught in a rip current
“It is important to stay calm and relaxed. You are not going to win a fight with the ocean. All you need to do when you are caught in a rip is to swim parallel to the rip or the shore,” said Xulu.
He said people should know that a rip would only take you out to behind the waves.
“You just need to relax and go with the flow.”
Rip currents will not pull you under so long as you can tread water or float. You will be safe if you stay calm until you can escape the current and head back to the beach.
“Do not panic but wave your arm so the lifeguards can see you need assistance,” said Xulu.
He said most people who get into trouble in a rip current start to panic and then swallow water, which increases their chances of drowning.
“That is how most drownings take place,” he said.
Before you go out in the water, talk to the lifeguards on duty. Ask them where the rip currents are and the safest place to swim.
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