For the parents, Selina and Stanton Ingram, the night that changed their lives was like any other night. It was a Friday and the couple said goodnight to their children before going to bed.
Selina is a housewife and Stanton a draughtsman. The family live in a complex in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth.
The couple were woken a few hours later by Tammy, a Grade 7 pupil at Erica Girls’ Primary School, who said she was not feeling well. Her eyes and nose were burning and she was nauseous.
Selina Ingram said she went to look for some medication and to check on Matthew, a Grade 11 pupil at Westering High School. He had spent the day in school and had dinner at a friend’s home.
He was also feeling unwell and was still in his school uniform. He complained of a headache and said he felt nauseous.
Shortly afterwards, both children started to vomit and had diarrhoea.
Ingram also started to feel nauseous. “I felt my skin start to get hot, my eyes and nose were burning, and I had this acidic taste in my mouth. I ran outside because I needed to vomit and a short while later my husband came outside and he also started to vomit.”
Ingram felt weak but managed to get inside where she collapsed on a sofa. At some point after she regained consciousness, she called members of her family for help.
While waiting, Tammy came to sit beside her.
“I was still feeling unwell and disorientated, but, as I turned to look at my child, she started to have a fit. Her body was shaking and jerking uncontrollably.
“I screamed for my husband and made a call to my elder son’s wife to take us to the hospital. As we got to the hospital, Matthew collapsed. He also started to shake uncontrollably and began frothing from his mouth.”
Both children were put into a medically induced coma to avoid brain damage while Ingram and her husband were treated in casualty and discharged a few hours later.
“We saw the children the next day. It was horrible seeing all those pipes and tubes connected to their bodies.”
According to Ingram, doctors asked if they had any gas appliances in their home.
“We did not but we thought maybe there was something wrong with the fridge so we got a technician to check it out. But the fridge was fine.”
That Sunday (August 23), Tammy died. Last Friday, Matthew died.
Ingram said a family friend spoke to her neighbours to try to understand what had happened. It was established that hours before her family fell ill, a unit in their complex was fumigated. It was three doors away from their unit.
Other neighbours had been told to leave their units and spend the night elsewhere. However, the Ingram family were not notified.
“There are only five units in our part of the complex. The three other units were informed. But we were not. Why? I am at home so it would have been easy to let me know.
“Furthermore, no notice was put up nor was there any written notification informing residents of the fumigation. We need answers. Someone has to take responsibility for what has happened.
“We lost our two beautiful children who had so much to live for. This was not a freak accident. It could have been avoided. Someone didn’t do their job and if they had, our children would still be with us today.
“My son wanted to become a film director while Tammy wanted to be an architect and work with her dad. They had dreams. We had dreams. We were a happy family in a happy home. Now all that has been taken away.”
The plight of the family was widely reported in the Port Elizabeth media and on social media.
Prayers were conducted while Matthew was fighting for his life.
Gary Hambury, business and portfolio manager at Proficient Property Management, said: “Unfortunately I cannot comment as we, the managing agent, were not involved in the process.
“I have advised the representative of the Ingrams to contact the owner of the unit that was fumigated for information. This was a tragic event and I cannot imagine what the parents must be going through,” he said.
Colonel Priscilla Naidu, Eastern Cape police spokesperson, said an inquest docket was being investigated.
“Once the investigation is complete, the docket will be sent to the inquest court for decision. Forensic tests were done at the house and specimens will be sent to the forensic laboratory for analysis. A toxicology report is awaited,” she said.
Tammy’s funeral was held at Westway Bethel Baptist Church on August 29.
Matthew’s will be held this Saturday.