South Africa

WATCH: Northern Cape veld fire claims lives of six soldiers, destroys military vehicles

SANDF

Six members of the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) have tragically lost their lives in a veld fire in the Northern Cape.

Three others were seriously injured in the incident.

The South African National Defence Union (Sandu) spokesperson Pikkie Greef earlier said five soldiers were killed after veld fire swept across the SANDF Combat Training Centre in Lohatla, in the Northern Cape on Friday.

However, the SA Army spokesperson Major General Rene Mecuur clarified that six soldiers had died in the incident.

Watch the video of the veld fire at at Lohatla in the Northern Cape

“It was reported that six soldiers of the South African Army lost their lives during this incident, and three were injured with second degree burns has been evacuated to the nearest hospital. The names of the deceased soldiers will be released once the next of kin have been informed.”

Mecuur said soldiers were in the area preparing for a forthcoming army exercise.

“Elements of the SA army are currently deployed in the vicinity in preparation for the annual SA army exercise known as exercise Vuk’uhlome and were deployed in the vicinity when the fire occurred.

“The South African army is currently assessing the situation on the ground and further information regarding this incident will be communicated in due course as the investigation is still underway,” Mecuur said.

Investigations

Meanwhile, Sandu expressed its heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.

“Yet another tragedy has now claimed the lives of South African soldiers,” Greef said.

Greef said a board of inquiry will be convened by the SANDF to investigate the incident.

“It will determine among other things, the circumstances leading to the loss of personnel and equipment as well as the value of the equipment losses (which by social media footage seem substantial)

Sandu encouraged SANDF members partaking in the exercise at Lohatia to stand strong and expresses the union’s support and appreciation for the members’ service to South Africa,” Greef said.

ALSO READ: 7 SANDF members die in one day – What went wrong?

Soldiers killed

In September, four SANDF members died when a front tyre burst of the broken-down Samil 50 they were in while being towed in the Northern Cape.

The four were ejected from the vehicle, which rolled over them. Another two were critically injured, with another nine suffering minor injuries.

All the members were from 8 SA Infantry in Upington.

Greef said the facts surrounding the incidents were unclear “and no doubt the SANDF will be conducting an inquiry”.

Mariners killed

In a separate incident on the same day three SA Naby mariners lost their lives when they were swept off the SAS Manthatisi submarine in stormy sea conditions

Lieutenant commander Gillian Hector, master warrant officer William Mathipa, and warrant officer Mmokwapa Mojela died after being swept off the SAS Manthatisi submarine in rough seas while doing a vertical transfer training exercise

The crew had been busy with a vertical transfer exercise involving a military helicopter when high waves swept seven officers out to sea.

ALSO READ: Three SA Navy mariners dead, four injured off coast of Cape Town