Methane gas leak responsible for deaths - SANDF

Durban – The South African National Defence Force has established that a methane gas leak caused the death of six people at the Durban Naval base.

This after six people died in a "freak accident" on Friday. Three of them were soldiers.

The SANDF's Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi said in a statement the incident happened at about 11:30.

He said according to witnesses, contract workers were working underground when they started encountering breathing problems. They were working in a sewer pit at the time.

Another 26 people have been reported injured and have been transported to various hospitals for further treatment. Mgobozi said the six succumbed to the methane gas leak in the pit.

It is understood that the three uniform members rushed to the pit to try and assist the Public Works members who were struggling to breathe underground.

He said, all six were declared dead by paramedics who responded to the scene.

The Military police and SAPS are conducting an investigation to determine the cause of death.

The names of the deceased will be released once their families and next of kin have been informed, said Mgobozi.

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has conveyed her condolences to the families of soldiers killed.

“This is particularly sad because in a few days the SANDF will be commemorating Armed Forces Day and the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi in Durban.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the fallen soldiers,” said Mapisa-Nqakula's spokesperson Joy Nonzukiso.

The tragedy happened as the city was currently hosting thousands of soldiers who have started to gather to celebrate Armed Forces Day on Tuesday.

Secretary Dr Sam Gulube and the Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke have also conveyed their heartfelt condolences to the families and colleagues of the deceased.

Members of the media were not permitted to enter the base, with officials citing that it was for their own safety.

When News24 arrived at the scene on Bayhead Road, a chemical spillage unit vehicle drove into the premises along with a large police escort.

Members of the public were also restricted from the scene, even some members of the police were not allowed too close to where the chemical had leaked because it was too dangerous.