Fire victim recalls ordeal
24 May 2018 | Accidents
During a visit to the scene of the tragedy, Laurentia recounted what transpired on that fateful evening after she and her friend Anmire decided to go for a stroll around the neighbourhood since it was hot.
“We caught up with Elrizza the afternoon, and headed to Shimedima Bar. A friend came up to us and brought us a few beers. While I was enjoying a smoke outside my ex-boyfriend walked past. I called him over, enquired how he was doing and requested that he buy us some drinks. He informed me that he had no money on him. We left it at that and moved to another spot inside the bar.”
Elrizza apparently noticed two South African nationals, and told her friends that her boyfriend was bound to arrive and he'll sort them out with drinks. One of the South Africans, named David, called her and they started talking. She rejoined her friends after he gave her his phone number.
After a while she texted him and requested that he buy a few beers, which he did. Elrizza's boyfriend also arrived and joined the group. They decided to leave at about 00:00 or 01:00, since the bar closes at 02:00.
“We agreed that everyone (Elrizza, her boyfriend, Anmire and David) could come to my house and sleep over. Elrizza and her boyfriend crashed on the sofa nearby the door, Anmire slept on my daughter's bed, who was visiting the farm for the weekend. David and I slept on my bed. After a while he woke me, telling me that there is someone at the door. I walked to the door, and saw that it was Jannie //Gowaseb, my ex-boyfriend.”
According to Laurencia he had the habit of coming to her place when he was drunk, or when he had meat, they would cook together.
They had a great relationship as parents of Grace.
“I remember speaking to him through the door. He eventually left and I went to lie down. When I woke up, I saw the fire. David also woke up, dressed and woke up his friend who was sleeping on the couch.”
The smell of smoke woke Anmire up and she pulled her friend Laurencia from the bed. The fire had apparently started in the vicinity of the headboard of Laurencia's bed.
Laurencia explained that they all moved to the kitchen/living room area, since the fire had not yet spread to there.
“We were trying to open the door which was locked. Elrizza was still on the sofa and through the chaos we thought her boyfriend or his friend had woken her up.”
According to Anmire the room was very dark and she would have had woken her up.
They only realised later on that Elrizza was nowhere to be found.
“We were still drunk, confused and had also inhaled smoke. My son, who is now six years old, walked through the rubble and told me 'mommy, here is a body'.
“That's when we realized Elrizza had burnt to death. The fire occurred at about 03:00 and her body was discovered at 10:00.”
According to Laurencia, the fire brigade extinguished the fire at 03:00 and left. “I had to collect a form from them later the day, and informed them someone had died in the fire. They didn't believe me.”
Laurencia lost everything in the fire, including all her clothes and documents, as well as those of her daughter.
“I need materials to rebuild my shack. My daughter keeps asking me, when we can move back home. We are currently living with my sister in her shack. I need a bed, blankets, clothes, shoes, for me and for Grace who will be starting with her grade zero next year.”
She works as a domestic worker two days during the week. Her employers are currently out of the country.
According to Laurencia she and Jannie had been together for eight years.
“I left him because he was constantly drinking, we didn't move forward and I had enough. He lost the last job he had at the mine due to his drinking. We've been apart for more than a year now, but have not been on bad terms for the sake of our daughter.
“He was never violent although some time back when my sister's place was also burnt down by an ex-boyfriend, he told me that if he burns down my house I will die. I presume he might have heard David's voice and this prompted him to burn down my shack.”
Gowaseb was subsequently charged with arson and murder. He also sustained serious burn injuries on the hands, arms and on the forehead, after he rushed to the assistance of Laurencia during the fire.
Speaking to the bereaved Byl family, they said that Elrizza was an outgoing person.
“She was a people's person and loved to socialise. Our hearts are broken by her death.”
Her funeral will take place in Usakos at the end of this month. Both Elrizza's parents are pensioners, and are trying their best to collect funds among family and friends to make their second eldest daughter's funeral possible.