Tragic end to hiking trip for duo

Two athletes who drowned while on a hiking trip swam in a natural pool that most hikers avoided.

The bodies of Desmond Matsane and Noncedo Pheza were recovered from a natural spring in the Magaliesburg area in which they were last seen swimming on Saturday morning while on a hiking trip.

The pool the pair was swimming in has been described as dark and deeper than most of the pools in that area.

It was apparently not the preferred swimming spot on the hiking trail as it was about 4m to 5m deep at its deepest end.

Afrika Tau, who was close to the pair, said a stranger who had seen the pair on the hiking trail told them he had seen them earlier on Saturday morning walking in the direction of one of the natural pools up the mountains.

"When this person returned from their trail they noticed someone floating in the pool, which was Noncedo, and they managed to pull her out."

Tau added: "The person said they tried to resuscitate her by giving her CPR but realised that she had long left us.

"They noticed that there were two pairs of sneakers and clothes and began searching for Desmond," he said.

He told SowetanLive yesterday Desmond was able to swim but described the natural pool that the pair swam in as dark and said most hikers avoided swimming in it.

Matsane and Pheza were affiliated to the Johannesburg-based Fat Cats Athletics Club and Chillies Running Club respectively.

Chair of the Fat Cats Athletics Club, Refiloe Rakwena, said: "Eyewitnesses told us that they saw the couple in the morning when they began their hike, while some said they met them along the hiking trail before the tragedy."

Rakwena described the duo as "remarkable athletes".

"They enjoyed training together even though they were both running for different clubs.

"We knew Noncedo because she always came to our club with Desmond and they were remarkable athletes," said Rakwena.

Linda Msimango, chair of the Chillies Running Club, said Pheza, a manager at the SA National Blood Service, was a selfless and helpful woman and team member who went out of her way to always assist others.

"Although she had been with the club for only a year, she was a remarkable individual who was committed and passionate about running," said Msimango.

Pheza will be buried in her hometown of Sterkspruit, Free State, in a week's time, while Matsane will be buried in Nelspruit this weekend.

North West police spokesperson Brig Sabata Mokgwabone said the bodies of the duo were discovered on Saturday afternoon, however they were registered as unknown persons.

"We have opened an inquest docket and we do not suspect any foul play at this point," said Mokgwabone.


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