Rescuers vow to keep looking for Khaya Magadla as search hits critical stage

Thursday marks 11 days since Khaya Magadla fell into an open manhole at a park in Dlamini, Soweto, and there's still no sign of the missing six-year-old.

Rescuers at the manhole where six-year-old Khaya Mgadla fell in. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - As the search for Khaya Magadla enters its critical stage, rescuers have described the operation as being more stressful and traumatic with each passing day that the boy is not found.

Thursday marks 11 days since Magadla slipped and fell into an open manhole at a park in Dlamini, Soweto, and there's still no sign of the missing six-year-old.

The team of rescuers, divers, robotics and engineers have been met with challenges and false alarms as they scoured a 13-kilometre-long pipeline.

They are now pinning their hopes on finding Magadla at the central point of the local sewer network, the Olifantsvlei Treatment Plant.

Rescuers at the manhole where six-year-old Khaya Mgadla fell in. Picture: Masechaba Sefularo/Eyewitness News.

Rescuer Ivy Mabogo who is helping search for missing six-year-old Khaya Magadla who fell into a manhole in Dlamini, Soweto. Picture: Masechaba Sefularo/Eyewitness News.

Rescuer Ivy Mabogo has worked tirelessly every day as the only female member of the aquatic rescue unit on the search for Magadla.

"It’s traumatic, it's hectic, it's stressful. It’s not an easy journey at all. Can you imagine doing one thing every day, looking for this boy since last week Monday and we can’t find him still?"

This is Mabogo’s first time searching for a child in the challenging conditions of the sewer line, but she is driven by her passion for her work and wanting to fulfil the promise of bringing Khaya home to his family.

"I love water, I love a challenge. It’s just a pity here we are dealing with someone’s life. I don’t think we are going to give up so easily because surely, we want that family to have closure."

Rescuers at the manhole where six-year-old Khaya Mgadla fell in. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

Rescuers at the manhole where six-year-old Khaya Mgadla fell in. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

Rescuers at the manhole where six-year-old Khaya Mgadla fell in. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

Joseph Sithole is a platoon commander at the Fairview Fire Station and has been part of the physical search along the final six-kilometre stretch of the 13-kilometre-long pipelines this week.

He described what they found: “There’s lots of rags, like clothes, that we find down there. So, if there is rocks, those clothes are wrapped around that rock and then obviously it will give us a false alarm.”

A father himself, Sithole said that he knew that with each rescue mission he risked his own life, but he thinks of his own children and little Khaya’s father: “I’ve got young sons, however, this is my job. What I can say to him is to be strong, we are doing our best to find his son.”

Meanwhile, Joburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said that they had reached the final and most critical part of the search at the split chamber after eliminating any doubt that the little boy’s body may be trapped along the pipes.