From the news desk

7 people face culpable homicide charges after man dies in blast at alleged perlemoen facility

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It was a gas cylinder explosion in Maitland, Cape Town in February that led police to a house in the suburb where a group was allegedly running an illegal perlemoen (abalone) processing facility.

The explosion in Hely Street, which is just a few blocks from major highways and train routes, was big enough to damage two neighbouring houses.

While police initially announced that those arrested in February would face charges in terms of the Living Marine Resources Act, it has since emerged that a man died in the explosion and a culpable homicide case is on the table.

Officers who had arrest warrants swooped in on five others on Tuesday night.

According to a brief by Maitland police, a man who was severely injured in the explosion was “removed from the scene” before officers arrived.

He apparently died as a result of burn wounds and police believed he might have survived had he received immediate medical attention.

At the time, Captain FC van Wyk said officers arrived at the extensively damaged house around 06:50 on February 8, where they found the processing facility at the back of the property.

In the remains of the drying room were drying shelves for perlemoen, a gas cylinder and a fan. Containers of shucked perlemoen were found in another room.

Officers seized perlemoen, gas cylinders, burners, fans, scales and bags of salt.

Van Wyk said at the time that a person who had severe burn wounds was admitted to hospital and another person fled the scene.

A man, 33, and woman, aged 50, were arrested.

While the sequence of events is not yet clear, the owner of the home reportedly refused to grant access to police officers, who then spotted perlemoen when looking over the wall and returned with back-up.

“The woman’s son was badly burnt and his skin was hanging off; they took him away. The neighbour was also arrested, but he just ran in to help the woman,” a resident told the Daily Voice at the time.

On Tuesday night, Maitland detectives and members of the organised crime unit and Cape Town cluster tracing team executed five arrest warrants at the same time.

They apparently split into three groups and arrested the suspects before they had any chance of alerting each other.

Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed that five people, between the ages of 45 and 50, were arrested on Tuesday night.

They are expected to appear in court soon.

She said seven people now face charges of culpable homicide, as three people were arrested on the day of the explosion but the case was withdrawn against one of them by the court.

(Source: News24)

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