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Families and friends of victims of Boksburg gas tanker explosion share their heartache and trauma

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    Nat Quinn

    The families of some of the victims of the Boksburg explosion on 24 December, which has so far claimed 34 lives and injured others, have spoken out about their loss. Meanwhile, the driver of the truck that exploded after it crashed into a bridge is a free man after being released from custody because, the police say, there was no ‘case against him’.

    “Everything still feels like a bad dream that one can’t wake up from. To see and hear that I lost four of my friends to this horrific incident is bad. Even more, because I have to see their families who are in immense pain breaks my heart because I have never seen them in this state.

    “I don’t know how to help and be there for them. I’m not coping but I am trying to be strong for the people around me and my family members. This is just not about my friends but we had a major loss in the community.”

    Marcus Peterson pays tribute to his friends who died during the explosion. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

    *These were the words of Boksburg resident Marcus Peterson about the explosion that claimed 34 lives,  according to the latest figures provided on Friday morning at a memorial service for the victims.  The authorities also provided the names of the deceased (see below).

    On 24 December, a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker travelling to Botswana exploded in Boksburg after sustaining damage when passing under a low bridge. The vehicle’s release valve caught on the bridge and a fire started, according to Ekurhuleni Emergency Services, killing 10 people and seriously injuring 26. However, since then, the death toll has risen to 27.

    Read more in Daily Maverick: “Death toll of Boksburg gas tanker blast stands at 18 as government assesses damage to nearby OR Tambo Hospital

    The explosion also caused damage to the nearby Tambo Memorial Hospital, leading to its temporary closure.

    On Thursday, Daily Maverick  interviewed some of the victims of the explosion.

    The mood was sombre in Hospital Street where the tragedy occurred. Flowers, candles and messages had been placed on the pavement near where the burn victims lay after the explosion. Family members stopped to pay their respects at the scene.

    Geraldo Gedult lost his son and wife during the explosion. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

    Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

    ‘The pain is deep’

    Geraldo Geduld lost his wife, Elise, and their 19-year-old son, Janil, in the disaster.

    “I can’t even put in words the trauma I feel losing a wife of 20 years, my best friend and my partner. On the other hand, a son who was just starting his life,” said Geduld.

    “It’s so difficult for a parent to have to bury their child because you always reminisce about the potential they had. We had a vision with my son and wife for our life — now it’s all gone. The pain is deep and I will get over that, but it’s the future that hurts me and a path I have to walk with my daughter.”

    The Geduld family had come from Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape to visit relatives in Boksburg for the festive season.

    A video of the incident, which has gone viral on social media platforms, shows Janil Geduld asking for help from bystanders, only to be directed to the hospital, where he was later taken and died from his injuries.

    Elise Geduld is said to have died on the scene, but her family found her body in the Germiston morgue only on Tuesday after a long search at morgues and hospitals.

    “My son Janil Geduld is the young boy in the video in circulation asking for help. What is saddening is on the video he is asking for help, humbly so, but no one was helping [because] they were too busy taking videos,” said Geraldo Geduld.

    “If only maybe someone offered help in time he could have survived. It was very traumatic seeing my son the way he was and my wife too. It took me a while to confirm my wife’s body at the morgue. The look on her face, her hair was deurmekaar [messy] … with a broken arm and skin peeling off. I knew she had tattoos of our children’s names and that’s how I could identify her. A part of me has been ripped out and I am trying to find myself again.”

    Homeowner Hendrika Zwanziger shares her experience following the explosion that shattered windows and cracked walls of her house on Christmas Eve in Boksburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)
    Felicia Mvenya breaks down during a media interview. Mvenya’s co-worker is still missing following the explosion on Christmas Eve in Boksburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)
    Survivor Joseph Nyachalle tells how he was injured on his leg and neck during the explosion on Christmas Eve in Boksburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

    House damaged by explosion

    The home of 83-year-old Hendrika Zwanziger in Hospital Street was badly damaged by the explosion, with most of the windows and much of the roofing broken and walls cracked, making it unsafe for human habitation, according to Zwanziger’s helper, Felicia Mvenya.

    Mvenya said they worry that the house could soon collapse. She said she is grateful not to have not been harmed as she was not home at the time of the explosion. However, their gardener, Joseph Nyachalle, sustained burn injuries on his neck and left leg in the explosion, and her friend Zoleka Nqayimbana was still missing.

    Nyachalle told Daily Maverick: “It was a beautiful morning on Saturday. I was doing the garden as usual. Everything happened so fast. One minute I heard a huge explosion and the next second, flames were up in the air. Before I knew it, I was on fire and trying to [get] it off and run before I could be hurt more. I’m glad to have survived.

    “At this point, I am in so much pain but I have been sent back home from the hospital, bandaged, with just packets of Panado and Brufen tablets. Nothing further was done to make sure I am okay.

    “When I went back to Vosloorus Hospital yesterday because I was not feeling well I was [sent] home with nothing and told not to come back again. I fear I might get an infection from the burn injuries if not monitored but there is nothing I can do other than hope for the best.”

    None of the interviewed families indicated how they are being assisted by the government, except for being given trauma counselling.

    Road closed after the deadly gas tanker explosion in Boksburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

    NPOs step in

    Non-profit organisations including Gift of the Givers and Hope SA Foundation have been providing necessities such as food and blankets to affected families.

    Hope SA Foundation CEO Namritha Sivsanker told Daily Maverick: “When we arrived on the first day we did not know what to expect and hoped there was a lot of ground support from various organisations and the government, but to our surprise, there was no one helping the victims.

    “So we decided to go door to door, offering support and assistance. Many of them have been excited with just our presence. I am quite disappointed with the lack of compassion from government officials who seem not to be offering the much-needed support to families.”

    The Gauteng provincial government and the Ekurhuleni metro hosted a joint memorial service for the victims on Friday.

    Family and friends pay respects at the scene of the deadly gas tanker explosion in Boksburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

    Fuzzy details on the case of the driver 

    On Wednesday, the National Prosecuting Authority told the media that the police had on Tuesday released the driver of the LPG tanker because of a lack of evidence.

    Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili said the 32-year-old suspect had been interviewed and released on a warning by the police, pending further investigations.

    Read more in Daily Maverick: “Boksburg gas tanker explosion leaves 10 dead, 26 injured – and temporarily shuts down OR Tambo Memorial Hospital

    Police had arrested the 32-year-old truck driver on Saturday evening at a private hospital where he was receiving treatment for minor injuries. He was charged with “multiple counts of culpable homicide, negligent causing of an explosion resulting in death … and malicious property damage”.

    On Wednesday, Muridili confirmed that the charges had not been dropped.

    “After the conclusion of investigations, the docket will be taken to court for a decision,” she said. DM

    Families and friends of victims of Boksburg gas tanker… (dailymaverick.co.za)


    I think the damage would have been much greater if the truck was in the open but luckily it was partially under the bridge as I could make out of all the reports.
    This was the saddest part of 2022 ending the year on such a tragic note.
    We will remember this for years to come.

    Nat Quinn

    It most certainly was a terrible day for many, for an entire country I believe.

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