Girl, 8, and dad die in Village Heights fire

Residents sift through rubble left after a fire razed a structure in Village Heights.
After the fire neighbours realised there were two people missing.
A neighbour points out where the bodies of the 8-year-old girl and her father were found.

An 8-year-old girl and her father, 37, died in a blaze at their home at Village Heights informal settlement in the early hours of Saturday May 15.

The rest of the family – Quwyn, 7, Chelsea, 11, Nadine, 22, and their mother, Luzelle, 42, sustained injuries to their faces, chest and arms and were rushed to hospital.

Sadie and her father Lesley (Faizel) Grootboom, who were still asleep when the fire broke out, perished in the blaze.

When Southern Mail visited the home of the children’s grandparent in Retreat, they were called to the hospital by doctors because Nadine, had sustained severe injuries.

The grandfather, only know as Mr Jansen, said Nadine’s condition was critical. “The doctor told us to go to the hospital immediately because her kidneys are not functioning and she is not doing well. Faizel and my daughter have been together for more than 12 years and lived together. She is not doing well – she lost her closest friend and her daughter and now her eldest daughter is in hospital but we pray they will be okay,“ said Mr Jansen.

At the structure in Village Heights residents sifted through the rubble to retrieve any documents or salvageable items. The fire started at about 4am on Saturday at the settlement near St Montague Village.

Neighbour Jaleel de Wee was the first person to notice the fire.

“I was sleeping when I smelt the smoke and got up to check where it was coming from,“ he said.

“When I looked over I saw the flames and woke everyone up to try and help put out the fire while I was in my yard trying to keep our place from burning.”

The community tried their utmost to fight the flames but it was overwhelming, he said, adding that it was only afterwards that the community had realised two people were missing.

“We didn’t know anyone was still inside. If we knew we would have tried to save them, but we didn’t know.”

Jermaine Carelse, the City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, confirmed the fire and fatalities.

“The City’s Fire and Rescue Service was alerted at 4.10am of an informal structure alight in the Village Heights Informal Settlement. Fire crews were dispatched and upon arrival found the entire structure engulfed in flames,“ he told Southern Mail.

“The staff were informed that two persons were unaccounted for and the subsequent search of the property led to the discovery of the bodies of a man and female minor.”

The fire was extinguished by 5.30am and the scene was handed over to the police.

Sergeant Wesley Twigg, Steenberg police spokesperson said an inquest had been opened for investigation.

Both Mr Carelse and Sergeant Twigg said the cause of the fire was yet to be determined.

Anyone with any information about this incident can contact Steenberg SAPS on 021 702 9000 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

In a separate incident on Friday May 14, the City’s Fire and Rescue Service were alerted a fire in Mirbey Road, Lavender Hill just after 11am. Four informal structures on the property of 11 Mirbey Road were destroyed and another five flats were damaged as a result of the fire, said Mr Carelse. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished at about 1.30pm.

“A total of five firefighting appliances, a rescue vehicle and 24 staff members were dispatched to the incident,” Mr Carelse added.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage.

To assist the family with clothes, non perishables and other items please contact Ma Jansen on 084 445 6769 and to assist those the family in Lavender Hill contact ward councillor Marita Petersen on 071 936 1045.