In commemoration of World Drowning Prevention Day, marked with the theme “Anyone can drown. No one should,” Wendy Chetty, a heartbroken mother, courageously shares her family’s painful experience to advocate for clear and prominent signage at non-swimming beaches nationwide.
The Chetty family, residing in Parlock, has been devastated by losing their seven-year-old daughter, Hannah Zoe Grace. Tragically, on Sunday, July 2, 2023, just days after her birthday, Hannah drowned while walking with her family on the shore of a non-swimming beach in Umhlanga Rocks.
The family couldn’t afford a traditional celebration for Hannah’s birthday, and her simple wish was to go to the park to play. After a modest cake celebration, they headed to the beach and walked along the shoreline. Unexpectedly, a freak wave swept in, pulling them all into the water. A brave onlooker rescued Hannah’s mother, and her father, Ruben (45), heroically rushed in to save their son, Benjamin (12), and their eldest daughter, Tehila (14).
Despite valiant efforts to rescue her, Hannah slipped from her father’s grasp and was carried into deeper waters. Emergency responders arrived promptly and attempted resuscitation for almost an hour, but tragically, they could not save her.
The family spokesperson, Wendy Chetty, stressed the importance of clear “no-swimming” signage boards on non-swimming beaches to warn people about potential dangers. She also urged beachgoers to exercise caution near shorelines, especially in the absence of lifeguards, particularly during spring tide when water conditions can be unpredictable.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) shared alarming statistics, revealing that an average of 1477 people in South Africa die annually from drowning. The NSRI emphasized the heightened risks around coastlines during spring tide, leading to stronger rip currents. Tide changes as the high tide peak recedes towards low tide, further increasing these risks. The NSRI urged the public to be aware of these dangers and to exercise caution accordingly.
The Chetty family hopes to spare others from similar tragedies by sharing their devastating story. While they continue to grapple with losing their little girl, they are committed to preventing such heartache for others.
In the face of adversity and hardship, a crowdfunding campaign has been set up to support this grieving family during their time of need: Hannah (7) drowned but her family can be saved
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