Boy’s electrocution exposes neglect

Comment & Analysis
The Glendale community blame the tragedy on alleged recklessness by the power utility ZETDC  whose transmission cables, along a Westview main road were said to be sagging at very low levels, almost at the roof level of a standard car.


When he left home a Monday,  October 11 afternoon to collect school notes from his friend in the neighbourhood, Darius Chinyere (15) would not have known that was going to be his last errand – the last time he was going to see his parents, or any of his friends.

A few minutes after leaving his home, Darius was hit by live electric wires, that were allegedly left to dangle barely a metre from the ground crossing a footpath in Westview, Glendale, about 60 kilometres north of Harare.

He was hit so hard he momentarily was transformed into a ball of fire, but miraculously survived with what doctors said were third degree burns.

Brave members of the community rushed him to the local clinic from where he was immediately transferred to Harare’s  Parirenyatwa Hospital’s burns unit.

Doctors said Darius sustained total body surface area percentage burns of 65%, having suffered burns to the front of his chest, both upper and lower limbs, neck, lower back and private parts which were particularly burnt severely.

Darius was admitted at Parirenyatwa for 17 days with doctors struggling to save his life, but the burns were just too much.

Doctors said electrical energy had damaged his liver and he was also set to take ECG tests to assess if he had not sustained injuries to his heart as well.

He died on October 30, a day before his 15th birthday.

The Glendale community blame the tragedy on alleged recklessness by the power utility ZETDC  whose transmission cables, along a Westview main road were said to be sagging at very low levels, almost at the roof level of a standard car.

Despite several calls seeking to have the cables lifted, the community says the power utility was not forthcoming, until tragedy struck.

A resident of Westview suburb, Fungai Mafemera witnessed the incident and managed to extricate the boy from the cables.

“I had to think fast, grab the boy or let him die right there before my very eyes.

“The crowd that had gathered on the scene just stood there watching helplessly as the boy’s whole body caught fire.

“There were raging flames and a cloud of smoke. He was burnt really badly, all over his body,” said Mafemera as he narrated the horrific accident.

“I managed to stabilise the boy on the scene, surrounded by concerned members of the community.

“I then grabbed a wooden pole and managed to detach the boy from the electrical source before moving him to a safe distance where we checked to see if he was breathing.”

Satisfied that Darius was alive, Mafemera  carried the badly burnt boy to his car and drove to Glendale Police Station with Memory Tichivanhu the boy’s devastated mother, who had just arrived on the scene.

A report was made and police officers were assigned to accompany them to Concession General Hospital where the boy was attended to.

Phineas Runganga, the ZETDC Concession’s client service officer followed to check on the boy’s injuries after receiving the reports.

Just three days before the accident, on Westview residents said they had called the power utility to draw their attention to the poles that had now sagged to dangerous levels, but the company procrastinated in their response to these calls until tragedy struck.

Takudzwanashe Shoko, the boy’s uncle could not disguise the pain in his voice as he explained the extent of burns that his nephew Darius had suffered.

There were also varying eyewitness accounts of how exactly the boy got electrocuted.

One resident said the boy was wearing a hat and that as he ducked under the live wires, his hat tilted partially off his head. When Darius  attempted to put it back into position, his fingers made contact with the power source.

Zesa general manager stakeholder relations, communications and welfare, George Manyaya said: “ZETDC acknowledges a regrettable and unfortunate accident involving Darius Chinyere (15), who sustained burns due to an electrical accident in Glendale on  October 11, 2021.

“The accident report was compiled soon after the accident and consequently, investigations show that it was non-fatal electrical accident.

“ZETDC tried to save his life by running around and meeting all the treatment costs and further transferring him from the province to Parirenyatwa hospital where he was admitted.

“It is unfortunate that despite all our efforts, he succumbed to the burns on 28 October 2021.

“We facilitated all the funeral expenses, and our senior management has been engaging the family and even attended the funeral.”

Manyaya added: “The power utility expresses its sincere and most profound condolences to the Chinyere family on the sad loss of their loved one.

“ZETDC further advises its valued consumers to avoid getting into contact with electrical cables and the electricity infrastructure in general in the interests of preserving lives.

“All electrical faults, including dangling cables or conductors and fallen poles, among other related faults should be reported to the nearest Customer Service Centre for attention by experienced ZESA personnel.

“Furthermore, citizens are advised not to touch electrical appliances when wet and when it’s raining, not to use any metal sinks, showers and tubs.”

An electrical engineer, who was asked to comment on the accident said when power lines including poles and support systems are not properly installed, inspected, maintained and or repaired, the insulators or pole top hardware, fail and cause the power lines to hang too low or fall completely.

In yet another incident, residents of Shamva’s Tafuna Cargill Company, now Southern Region Company’s location, woke up to the shocking news of 17-year-old Munashe Matembedza’s electrocution.

Munashe was chasing after an elusive roadrunner when he made contact with live electricity wires on Thursday January 4, 2017 at 7:40 am and died on the spot.

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