THREE children from Bulawayo’s Entumbane suburb died while in the back of a single cab Nissan SE pickup truck that was stuck in the mud near Luveve Cemetery as their parents battled to free the vehicle.

The tragedy occurred on Saturday at around 11pm while the family was travelling to the city from their rural home in Nyamandlovu.

Algernon Aaron Moyo (63) and his wife, Thenjiwe (45), had just collected their only children, Aquilla (10) and Thelma (6), both pupils at Mthombowesizwe Primary School, as well as Shantel (2) in preparation for schools opening this week.

Family members speaking at a funeral wake in Entumbane said the death of the children was a mystery, but a mechanic said the children could have been suffocated by exhaust fumes from the car.

Moyo discovered that the children had died as Moyo went out of the car to gather small tree branches to help get the car out of a rut.

She checked on the children at the back as it was already dark and to her shock, the children were cold and did not show any sign of life.

Family spokesperson Noel Dube said she called her husband and they tried to render first aid, but the children were already dead.

Dube said the family is still trying to come to terms with what could have happened.

“We have lost our children under very mysterious circumstances. Up to now we are at a loss for words as to what could have happened to them. They died on their way home while coming from our rural home in Nyamandlovu. The children were returning home after spending the long holidays at the rural home due to Covid-19,” said Dube.

“While their parents drove near Luveve Cemetery, the vehicle got stuck in the muddy ground. Moyo got out of the car to look for tree branches and his wife decided to check on the children who were sleeping at the back of the pickup. She discovered that the eldest was lying in an awkward position. This worried her and she alerted her husband.”

He said it was not their first time for the family to travel with the children at the back of the car.

Another relative, Sindiswe Bhajila said there is no explanation that could console the family.

“Siphelelwe asikuzwisisi ukuthi kwenzakeleni, simadolo nzima. (we are shocked, we don’t understand what happened, we are at a loss for words) we are told that Thelma was frothing from the mouth. So that really makes it more complicated for us to understand what happened,” said Bhajila.

Their neighbour at Redbank in Nyamandlovu, Bigboy Sibanda, said they were heartbroken to learn of the tragic loss.

“I know these children very well. It is sad losing a kid and losing three of them at one go is terrible,” he said.

A post-mortem to establish what happened was supposed to have been conducted yesterday.

Acting Bulawayo police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nomalanga Msebele said police were investigating the matter as a sudden death.

A mechanic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said while the post-mortem will determine how the children died, they could have suffocated.

“If the exhaust pipe of the truck was not extended so that it protrudes at the back from under the truck, its fumes were getting inside the car.

“So, what could have happened is that when the car got stuck in the mud, the driver could have revved the car trying to get it out and by doing so it emitted a lot of smoke suffocating the children, particularly if the windows were left closed.

“This is sad we hope the post-mortem will explain what caused their death,” said the mechanic.

The truck was taken by Luveve police who attended the scene but later taken to UBH at the request of the pathologist who was conducting the post-mortem. -Chronicle