Satara guest house destroyed by fire

photo: Gordon Ramsden

Frankel House in Satara camp was burnt to the ground in the early morning of December 18, 2004. Although unoccupied at the time of the fire, the house contained the possessions of the Siddall family from Britain.

The fire was first spotted by guests in the nearby camping ground at about 02h00, many of whom rushed out to look at the fire while sparks flew over their tents and caravans. One camper, Frik Cloete, ran to the building to check for occupants, while his wife Antoinette looked on in terror. She recalls "the heat sucked the air from my lungs" and that the roof was already in flames when they emerged from their new caravan. Her husband kept his cool in the blaze, and with the help of two others removed the potentially explosive gas bottles from the building shortly before the roof collapsed.

His proud wife said, "He reminded me of Wolraad Woltemade". Two other eyewitnesses, Janet Wilkinson and Howard Josclyn, also braved the blaze to check the house for occupants. During his search Josclyn noted that the thatch was already on fire in the northwest section of the house, and believes that this may have been where the fire started.

The duty manager at Satara, Lerato Khoza, received a call at 02h30 that the building was on fire but on her arrival it was obvious that the house and its contents could not be saved, as the flames were already high. The fire brigade at Skukuza was alerted, but due to the distance the house was already destroyed when they arrived.

The Siddall family had planned to stay in Frankel house for two nights, but on their first day they discovered bees on the patio. After speaking to camp management about this, the next day they were moved into two chalets so that the bees could be smoked out between 21h00 and 22h00 on the night of the 17th. They were told that they could leave their possessions in Frankel house, resulting in their total destruction.

The Siddall family were forced to buy clothing and other necessary items at the Satara shop before continuing on to Biyamithi. All was not lost, however, as Mrs Siddall had kept the family's passports and other personal documents with her. The legal department of the Kruger National Park will ensure that the family are compensated for their losses. A forensic team from Pretoria has inspected the ruin and will be releasing their findings shortly. They have not ruled out foul play.

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