‘Our hearts are broken’: friends mourn families after lodge fire
A weekend getaway has left three families and a Kalahari lodge owner devastated after nine people died
“No one deserves to die in such a traumatic manner. Our hearts are broken. We are lost for words.”
These were the words of a friend of one of the three families caught in a deadly blaze while on a weekend getaway in the Kalahari in the Northern Cape.
The Carstens, Bauer and Davin families, all from the Witzenberg region in the Cape winelands, were at the Blinkwater Desert Place Manor when their cabin caught fire on Sunday evening.
Nine people died, including at least five children. All the members of one family died, while only the mother of another survived.
Hendri Carstens, 39, his wife Dane, 36, and their children Pierre Johan, five, and Magiel, three, died.
Stefan Bauer, 39, and daughter Elre, four, also succumbed to the fire. The other daughter Inge, seven, is presumed dead. The family is survived by Bauer’s wife and the girls’ mother, Madelein.
Five-year-old Frans Davin and three-year-old Iza also died, while their father Frans is fighting for his life in hospital. The mother, Wilmien, and their one-year-old baby boy Ben escaped injury.
A friend of Wilmien’s, who asked not to be named, told Times Select on Monday that she learnt about the fire on social media.
“The tears were flowing on Sunday when I found out what happened to Wilmien and her family, and the other families,” she said.
“It is extremely heartbreaking. I am a mother myself and I can’t imagine what it might have been like witnessing your children and husband die in such a horrific manner. Wilmien has a very beautiful personality with a heart of gold.”
She originally met the Davin family at Stellenbosch in 2008.
“We were part of a group who would socialise over weekends. These were genuine, good people and you wouldn’t in your wildest dreams think that something like this would happen to them.”
On Monday morning, police spokesperson Brig Mohale Ramatseba said rescue teams were still searching for Inge.
“Police search and rescue members, members of K9 and the local police have retrieved some bones from the debris this afternoon. It cannot be confirmed at this stage if the remains are of the missing child,” said Ramatseba.
“Forensic fire investigators and forensic anthropologists are awaited to process the scene.
“Identification will be confirmed as soon as the experts have concluded their investigations.”
Blinkwater Desert Place Manor owner Piet Lange was devastated.
“This is very difficult,” he told Times Select in a brief conversation, not wanting to comment further.