Man woke after days in coma to hear his wife and child died in Usindiso fire

06 February 2024 - 14:12
By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Mike Ngube lost his wife and daughter in the fire last year.
Image: Kgaugelo Masweneng Mike Ngube lost his wife and daughter in the fire last year.

A witness on Tuesday told the Usindiso commission of inquiry that he was in a coma for days after he was blasted by fumes from an electricity box during the August 2023 fire.

Mike Ngube said he had gone back into his room to fetch identity documents for himself and his family when the raging inferno spread rapidly through the building in the Johannesburg CBD.

“The hospital called my family and told them I was alive. This is when I asked where my family was. In the condition I was in, they couldn’t tell me I had lost them. After I woke up, doctors told me I lost my wife and daughter.

“My family began to look for their bodies. They went to different mortuaries and found my daughter’s body. She died of smoke inhalation. My brother went to confirm everything as I couldn’t do anything,” he said.

Ngube said his daughter's body was not released at Helen Joseph Hospital as DNA was needed from his wife, whose body was also lost for some time.

Then there was another blow.

“When we brought my wife's body, they told us our daughter’s body was nowhere to be found. It was given to another family. They admitted they made a mistake and said they would wait for three months to exhume the body.”

His wife was laid to rest in her home country. “My wife's body was carried to Malawi. Money was borrowed to take the body home,” he said.

Ngube is still recuperating from his injuries. He had an operation as he was struggling to breathe and could not speak properly.

“I can’t raise my voice. I have to go back for another operation. I can’t walk in the sun because my skin hurts as it is burnt. I have started to feel when the weather changes on my skin.” 

Ngube moved into the building during the Covid-19 lockdown and was paying rent until the person he was leasing from died in an accident.

He pleaded with the commission to intervene and assist to get copies of his documents.

The inquiry continues.