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’The last 48 hours have been the worst of our lives’: German tourist recounts houseboat tragedy

Alex Mirschel, (back, right) with his dad, Michael Mirschel, (back, left) hours before the houseboat they were on caught fire. Picture: Facebook

Alex Mirschel, (back, right) with his dad, Michael Mirschel, (back, left) hours before the houseboat they were on caught fire. Picture: Facebook

Published Oct 11, 2021


Durban – The son of the German tourist who died after the luxury houseboat they were on caught alight at the Jozini Dam, has spoken of their terror and the “worst 48 hours” of their lives.

Alex Mirschel, the son of Michael Mirschel, 64, who died after diving into the water from the burning houseboat, took to Facebook to tell of their experience.

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On Saturday, a fire ripped through the Shayamanzi, a 12-person luxury houseboat, on Jozini Dam.

On board were five German tourists and four local crew.

The crew members who died are Malawian-born chef Michael Phiri, 51, and deck hand Maxwell Nyawo, 64, whose body is still missing

In a heartfelt post which was written in German with an English translation option, Alex said that four people from their party survived the fire but his father unfortunately did not make it.

Police said six people were able to swim back to shore safely.

In the Facebook post, Alex said that they were having loads of fun on the trip and his father was happy “and enthusiastic about all the impressions”.

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He said that while he and two other people were watching elephants from a small dinghy at around 2.30pm, a storm broke out and they headed back to houseboat where his father was.

“As we went ahead with the little boat we suddenly saw a fire on the houseboat and rushed back. When we arrived, the whole boat was on fire and it was just a jump in the water for Dad and Robert. Unfortunately our dinghy got too close to the flames, so that we too had to jump at the last second,” he said.

Alex said that gas tanks exploded as they battled to swim to shore.

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“Dad was already in so much shock that unfortunately he didn't find any energy to fight independently. I was able to reach him but couldn't keep him up alone. Called the boys for help … and I made the way ashore. The boys already had dad in the rock cliffs but it was too late. We carried him over the rock wall until the lifeboats arrived. A crew member drowned next to our father and the driver of our dinghy is missing. He called me to help when he kept pushing out but I was out of strength,” the Facebook post read.

Alex said their belongings were burnt on the boat including their cash, passports and cellphones.

They were headed to the German Embassy in Pretoria and then back to Richard Bay where a post-mortem was to be performed on his father’s body.

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“We draw our strength from the desire to bring him home safely and honourably … I am so sorry. I wanted to show him why I love South Africa so much and I did everything to make sure we have the most beautiful (time).


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