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Sunday Times STLive By NAWHAL KARA-FOSTER, 2011-02-20

Girl, 14, saves pal and then drowns

A 14-year-old girl has been left traumatised after being rescued by her best friend, who drowned seconds after saving her.

Mariam Moosa, 14, a Grade 9 pupil from Johannesburg Muslim School (JMS), drowned this week during a school excursion to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort, Johannesburg.

The mother of the other 14-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, said her daughter and three other Grade 9 girls were swimming in the garden's natural pool when they got into difficulties and the drowning occurred.

"My daughter is shaken and cries all the time. She has not slept since the death of her friend, who was actually trying to save her when she drowned," she said.

She said that teachers watched while children swam in the pool at the foot of a waterfall despite signs clearly indicating that swimming was not allowed.

The mother said the teachers should not have allowed the girls to swim in the pool and that they had been swimming in their clothes.

"My daughter will need continuous counselling."

Ahmed Moosa, Mariam's father, said the family were devastated.

"This has been a great loss for us. We are very emotional and need to accept that our child is not coming back."

He said the family could not contemplate anything further than dealing with their grief at this time.

JMS spokesman Hassen Karolia said the school will conduct an internal inquiry.

"The entire school body was shocked and saddened by the accident," he said.

He said counselling had been provided at the school since the accident on Wednesday.

Thompson Mutshin-yalo, spokesman for the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, said: "These pupils were in fact handed over to their teachers following their guided tour of the gardens. Our security guard earlier told another group of pupils that swimming was not permitted and left to patrol the area."

He said that the 17-metre-high waterfall above the pool could have caused movement in the water, which may have hindered the girls from swimming out of it.

Mutshinyalo said the pool is deeper than three metres in some parts.

"Police and rescue divers searched for the body for over two hours, which indicates how deep the pool actually is," said Vanessa Jackson, spokesman for medical response company ER24.