Community puzzled about grenade drama

A picture of a M26 hand grenade

The Vanguard Estate community remains tight-lipped about the day that a grenade exploded at a Goud Street home last week, causing near-fatal injuries to six youth.

The youngsters, aged 15 to 20, were believed to have been playing a game last Monday December 5 where they were standing in a circle, throwing the grenade to each other.

The pin of the M26 military grenade then fell out when it was the 19-year-old’s turn to catch it and the grenade went off, causing injuries to his left arm and front body. He was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital along with three others.

One of the two remaining youngsters was taken to Melomed Hospital and the other to Tygerberg Hospital.

During a five-hour operation, the 19-year-old’s left arm was amputated at the shoulder while the others suffered injuries to the face, abdomen, chest, and arms.

According to Alaric Jacobs, spokesperson for Groote Schuur Hospital, the 19-year-old is in a stable condition while the other three youth have been discharged.

The Athlone News visited the house in Goud Street on Friday December 9, where the mother of the two youngsters aged 18 and 20, refused to comment.

The father of the 19-year-old, Nico Mitchell, told the Athlone News he cannot speak to the media as yet because his son remains in a critical condition in hospital.

“I understand that you need to do a story but I cannot sensationalise what has happened to my son while he remains in a critical condition in hospital,” he said.

According to Kader Jacobs, chairperson of the Manenberg Community Police Forum, one of the neighbours called the police and ambulance after they heard the explosion at about 6.30pm that night.

The M26 grenade is manufactured by Denel Rheinmetall Munitions, originally a United States design. It weighs in at 0.425kg and 0.465kg when fused. It sends about 1 000 fragments out to 10 metres and has a lethal radius for 50 percent casualties within five metres.

Captain Ian Bennett, spokesperson for Manenberg police, said once the youth have been released from hospital they will be charged with the possession of an explosive device.

He said questioning has not begun yet as the youngsters are still extremely traumatised about what has happened. The reason for the grenade being present in the house or where they found it is still unknown.

“People have become very reckless and in turn young people suffer the consequences. Children don’t have access to this device, so there is an adult here who brought that device into the house. No one is allowed to keep an explosive device in their house. The problem is that people don’t speak about it and the children remain naive. If anyone comes across a device like this the authorities must be alerted. They are lucky to be alive” said Captain Bennett.

Mr Jacobs said how the grenade got into the house remains a mystery. He said there are rumours that the father of the two brothers who live in the house is a former anti-apartheid activist and that police are currently searching for him for questioning.

“It is very difficult to determine how the boys got hold of the grenade because they do not belong to any gangs and are not linked to any organisations where they could have gotten hold of it.

“The father of the boys has apparently not been home for years now,” said Mr Jacobs.