The year got off to a traumatic start for a Monument Park, Pretoria, family when they got a phone call from a neighbour informing them their house was on fire, Pretoria East Rekord reports.
Laetitia Swanepoel and her family were staying overnight at her mother’s house in Bela-Bela, while making their way back to Pretoria from their holiday in Mozambique, when they received the phone call.
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It was 4am in the morning.
“I don’t know how to say this, but your house is burning,” their neighbour, Elshe Geyser, told Laetitia.
She and her husband, Stephan, left their children with Laetitia’s mother and drove straight through to Pretoria.
Swanepoel had only one concern at the time – saving her son Gustav’s ashes.
“I called my sister-in-law and asked her if she could rush to the house and get Gustav’s ashes,” she said.
Gustav passed away in a drowning incident in January 2016. He was two-and-a-half years old at the time.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t save the boy’s ashes. “Everything was on fire,” Swanepoel said.
When the couple arrived at what remained of their home, they were greeted by a whole crowd of people ready to help them.
“When we arrived at around 5:30, the fire was almost completely out,” she said.
That was when she realised everything had burnt down.
“The house was built on three levels; the study, spare bedroom and garages are the only parts of the house that didn’t burn completely.”
“Everything else was burnt down to the ground,” Swanepoel said.
Their neighbours came out in their numbers to offer them help and support.
“One of our neighbours even had a coffee stall for us and the firemen,” she said.
Although Swanepoel didn’t know what caused the fire, she said there was a break-in shortly before it broke out.
“We don’t know what happened, we’re not even sure whether the fire was intentional or not,” she said.
The family experienced more than one tragedy in the month of January. Their son, Gustav, died in January of 2016; while Swanepoel was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of last year.
“I’m in remission now and I’ll be seeing my oncologist at the end of the month,” she said.
Tshwane emergency services spokesperson Johan Pieterse believed there was “something suspicious” about the house fire, but said police will investigate the incident.
Police spokesperson Captain Colette Weilbach confirmed a case of arson was opened.
“We are investigating further,” she said.
No one was injured in the fire.