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Parents seek the truth after son died following fall from ceiling in school hall

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By Genevieve Serra 1h ago

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Cape Town – The parents of a Grade 6 boy who fell 8m to his death, from the ceiling in the school hall at Edgemead Primary four years ago are fighting for the truth.

Closing arguments in the inquest into his death are under way at the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court. The inquest includes a panel of representatives for the Western Cape Education Department and their insurance, as well as the State and the family’s attorney.

Kyle’s parents, Michael and Michelle, said they wanted the truth about what happened on May 25, 2017.

“There is a lot of deceit when we ask for information on what happened. They first lawyered up and we know our son was not alone the day he fell,” he said. There were other children who were with him. We just wanted the truth and we have been robbed of that.

“He was at aftercare and had received something to eat. They got 45 minutes to play and, in that time, four boys went into the school together.”

Michelle said their son was a child who had no discipline issues at school and was an avid sportsman.

“He was a very good boy, he had just made first team in rugby. The school has no record of bad conduct, we never called the school or called the principal,” Michael said.

Michael and Michelle Grace enter the Goodwood Magistrates court. They are the parents of Kyle Grace who fell to his death from a staircase at Edgemead Primary School. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

In his heads of argument, the family’s lawyer, advocate Henry Shields, said Kyle had a clean record according to his conduct and was a full and successful participant in sports and other activities.

He said the principal had a duty of care and had to ensure that the door leading to the ceiling and stairwell was locked and that proper signage warning learners not to enter was to have been administered for any foreseeable injury.

A notice written by the former caretaker was used as a reference which Shields deemed as not being a warning used for places which are not meant for the public under the Occupational Health Safety regulations.

The handwritten sign on the wall read: “Children strictly forbidden on stairway.”

He added the door leading to the stairwell and ceiling should have been locked.

“The evidence of the headmaster Mr Stokwell was that he was fully aware of the sign in that it was of much sentimental value and was in fact a valued relic.

“His evidence was that these words were written on the wall by a revered former employee of the school and when the backstage wall was painted the painters were instructed to paint around the words so as not to obliterate them.

“The question as to whether the words handwritten on the wall and not in or at the forbidden stairway) constituted a proper or effective sign in keeping with industry standards and signage in general is contested. In summary, it was not as much as a shadow of a warning sign.

“Mr Stokwell stated that he was solely responsible for education activities as well as management of the physical property which constituted the school. He was and is still responsible for assessing, implementing, monitoring and safety procedures.

“It is submitted that the entire backstage area fell within such a category of areas which should be locked up and rendered inaccessible.

“The school and department failed to prevent learners from accessing the dangerous area.

“Young children are impulsive and irresponsible (he said quoting from a reference), lock it up.

Shields emphasised that the Western Cape Education Department, the headmaster and school, had a duty of care.

Advocate Pedro Van Wyk, who represented the Western Cape Education Department argued that Kyle had caused his own death by entering an area which he knew was unsafe and did not follow school rules and that it was not a case of culpable homicide.

“He knew it would be dangerous to go up on the roof and the hall was out of limits without permission. It was a result of the deceased’s own conduct.

“The door leading to the ceiling was not locked and does not lead to the basis of culpability.”

Arina du Toit, from the Western Cape Education Department’s insurer said Kyle had removed his shoes as to not bring attention to his behaviour: “He left his shoes and climbed with his socks and walked on the steel barriers.

“The deceased took off his shoes as he already knew it was something he was not supposed to do.”

The inquest continues until judgment is reached.

Weekend Argus