Youth who ate poison fish dies

What should have been a fun fishing trip for two Mzamomhle youths at the weekend ended in tragedy as one died after eating the fish they caught.

Mhleli Jama and his friend Makholwa Giwu, both 22, went fishing on Saturday morning in Gonubie and caught 11 “browny-yellow fish with black spots on them”. The pair returned home to Mzamomhle and cooked their catch.

“I had never had that specific fish before, but it tasted like normal fish I had eaten before,” Jama said.

The pair then decided to go for a swim in the Quenera River but on the way Giwu started feeling ill.

Giwu sat down while Jama went to look for help and to get some water. A crowd started to gather and Giwu is believed to have died at around lunchtime.

Jama’s cousin, Ntombizethu Ngcukana, said Jama also began to feel ill. “He was dizzy and his tongue turned green and those were the symptoms that [Giwu] had before he died.

“The police and the ambulance had been called but the police said it was against the law for them to transport [Jama] in their van.

“We then had to bring him home because we did not want him to die on the side of the road like his friend. We thought if he was going to die, we at least wanted him to die in our arms at home,” she said.

The ambulance only arrived to collect Jama just before 9pm.

It is not clear why it took so long, but health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said he would look into it.

Even though he was scared, Jama said he had not believed Giwu would die and remained hopeful that he would survive.

Jama was taken to Frere Hospital where he spent the night on a drip. He was discharged on Sunday.

Kupelo yesterday confirmed that Giwu had died earlier in the day and that Jama was treated at Frere.

“The postmortem was done on Tuesday and the fish was found in his stomach. Specimens were taken and sent to the laboratory for tests,” he said, adding it could take weeks or even months for the results to come back from the lab.

Giwu’s sister, Sisanda Giwu, said the family did not want to comment on his death.

According to Jama’s description it is suspected the two men caught and ate poisonous pufferfish, which are also known as blowfish.

Online information on National Geographic states that pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them taste foul to other fish. They have developed this defence due to their slow and clumsy swimming style, which makes them vulnerable to predators.

The site states that tetrodotoxin is deadly to humans and up to 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide.

There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

However, in some countries like Japan the meat of some pufferfish is considered a delicacy and can only be prepared by trained, licensed chefs. —