“Simo spent his birthday cold, lying in the mortuary,” a heartbroken Cora Kwepe, grandmother of Zonnebloem NEST Senior School learner Simo Kwepe told GroundUpon Thursday.
Simo was killed on a Cape Town Metrorail line last week Friday, April 12. He would have celebrated his 17th birthday on Sunday, April 14.
Kwepe said one of Simo’s cousins had called her that morning to say Simo had been injured on the train in Salt River. They were waiting for transport to take them there.
“I waited and waited on them to call me back, but silence. When I eventually got hold of them after calling [them] myself, past 9am, they told me he was gone. I just dropped the call,” said Kwepe.
“When the paramedics were busy with him, I am told he had a smile on his face. He didn’t even get a chance to get to the hospital. He died right there on the station,” she said.
Simo was on his way to school when the train stopped moving. Metrorail users have become used to very long, unexplained delays when trains stop unexpectedly. On that morning, another train was arriving at the station.
“So Simo, along with other passengers and his friends, jumped from the stuck train. But during this commotion, Simo’s bag got caught inside the train he was jumping from. In those minutes he was trying to get free, the other train passed by, and because of the impact of the passing train, he fell, hitting his head on the stationery train,” she said.
Simo lived in Gugulethu with his father, after his parents had divorced.
“He was the sweetest person. I don’t even think he was capable of disrespect or back-chatting. Even if you shouted at him, he would just humbly smile and leave. He was also a bright learner and his grades were good,” said Kwepe.
Simo was supposed to go to initiation school next year. “His grandfather is devastated because they were both looking forward to this journey,” said Kwepe.
Since the tragic death of Simo, the Kwepe family has suffered two more blows. Kwepe’s 57-year-old sister died just three days after Simo and Simo’s girlfriend took her own life.
“My sister had been in hospital since April 7, because of a blood clot in her leg that she had injured a few years back. But after we told her the news of Simo, her condition got worse and she died.
“But that’s not all … While we were still shocked by my sister’s death, we received news that Simo’s 15-year-old girlfriend had taken her own life after hearing of Simo’s death,” said Kwepe.
“Simo’s best friend, who was with him at the time of the incident, was so traumatised, his family had to physically lock him in the house because he was so distraught and they feared of what he could do to himself.
“We have really lost. we were expecting great things from this child, but now he is gone,” said Kwepe.
According to the Railway Safety Regulator, 343 people were struck dead by trains last year. As high as this is, it’s the lowest recorded number of such deaths since at least 2010.
Commuter activist group #UniteBehind occupied the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) offices on Wednesday, partly in response to Simo’s death. PRASA runs Metrorail. The train service has deteriorated following years of mismanagement and corruption. #UniteBehind intends to hold a memorial service for Kwepe.
Simo will be buried on Saturday.