Johannesburg – The City of Ekurhuleni is proposing to hold a memorial service for the five-year-old boy who fell into a mineshaft in Boksburg last month.
All efforts to rescue Richard Thole had been called off, Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina said on Wednesday.
“The parents are devastated and, like any parent, all they wished for was the recovery of the body. Due to the reports from experts and the danger posed around the mission, we are compelled by law to abide by reports we have been given, which stop the operation,” Masina said.
The municipality still intended helping the family. Mayoral spokesperson Gugu Ndima said the memorial service was still a proposal and the family had said they would get back to them.
Richard fell into the disused mineshaft near his home in the Jerusalem informal settlement on February 25. Mine Rescue Services had sent a camera down the shaft three times. Each time, the camera got wedged behind a pile of rocks on a ledge at a depth of 60m.
Mine Rescue Services’ CEO Christo de Klerk said at the time that the shaft had been covered with a cement slab, which collapsed during heavy rain.
De Klerk said that at a depth of 36m, the oxygen level in the shaft was at 11%. Air is made up of around 21% oxygen.
Risk in continuing
On March 2, the SANDF, Masina, Mine Rescue Services and Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services went to the disused shaft to make an assessment.
The search operation to find Richard was halted more than a week ago. Ekurhuleni emergency services spokesperson William Ntladi said finding Richard alive was unlikely considering the number of days he had been in the shaft.
On March 14, the SANDF made an official report to Masina, council speaker Patricia Khumalo and city manager Imogen Mashazi.
The parents of Richard Thole, the Department of Mineral Resources, Community leaders of Jerusalem and the ward councillor were also present.
The SANDF described Richard’s case as “unique”.
“The weather patterns and sporadic heavy rains had impacted on the stability of the surrounding soil. The report and equipment provided by the Mine Rescue Services provided was the best across the continent.”
People could be lost in an attempt to recover the body as descending further into the shaft posed a greater risk of the ground caving in.
The SANDF had tasked its research and development staff officers to speak to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to investigate new technologies that may help in such cases in future.
On March 1, Masina said the shaft was closed in the 1950s, but was opened four weeks ago.
He said he had consulted with the residents of Jerusalem about relocating from the area. They were in the process of being moved to the Ramaphosa informal settlement, he said.