A young lady who drowned at Durban North Beach last Saturday during the freak wave was buried in her home village Sankontshe, near Hammarsdale. The burial was conducted on Thursday.

At least three people drowned, 17 were injured and about 100 people received first aid after they were caught in a rip tide at the packed beach.

The community paid its last respect to the late Sbongake Ntsele, 16, saying her death left them with a wound. Pupils from Gabi Gabi High School attended this emotional ceremony as she was a schoolmate.

Speaking on behalf of neighbors and the maidens group Ntsele was part of, Doris Ndlovu said: “I am still in disbelief. When Sbonga’s family told me about this I thought they were telling lies.”

“I cannot imagine the pain they are going through. I am 61 and very fearful about losing any of my children.”

“Sbonga’s mum said her daughter had been swallowed by the ocean, together with other people.”

The teenager played a central role in the maidens group, this was highlighted by Ndlovu during the speech on the ceremony.

During the funeral service, the maidens sang traditional songs.

Ndlovu, who groomed Ntsele, said she had harbored great dreams for her as she was the “epitome of what the life of a young, obedient girl should be”.

Ntsele’s best friend, Akhona Langa, 16, said they had been inseparable.

“Every time I would invite her to sleep over at my house, she would tell me she needed to get permission from her family and her mom. She loved her mom,” said Langa.

The loss of her friend came at the very beginning of the school holidays which made it hard for the teenager`s friend to hold back her tears.

“I was the one who suggested we go to the beach. I am being eaten by guilt. Maybe if I had not asked her mom to go to the beach we would not be here today,” said Langa.

She gave an account of how terrifying the news of her friend`s passing was when it came to her.

“It is going to be difficult going back to school. She was my only friend. I can barely eat”, Akhona Langa, 16.

“I survived but this was not easy. I am torn by this.”

She said her friend planned to follow a career in health sciences.

“Ntsele was a part of the science stream at school and her passing was a big loss to the school,” said the Gabi Gabi High School deputy principal Zilungile Malinga.

“We expected a lot from her because she was studying subjects required by the country. We are here to extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences, but we believe what happened is God’s will,” said Malinga.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Col Robert Netshiunda said Durban Central police are investigating the drownings. 

The tragedy cast a spotlight on the training and accreditation of lifeguards at the Durban beachfront, with ActionSA calling for the closure of beaches. 

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