Fitness test post mortems “not clear”

The pair had been charged with stock theft.
Photo: Supplied

The pair had been charged with stock theft. Photo: Supplied

There was no evidence that heat exposure caused the deaths of two men after a KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) fitness test, an inquiry in Pietermaritzburg heard on Thursday.

This was the evidence of forensic medical examiner Dr Kamelia Mancheva on the deaths of Wanda Philani Nkosi and Lindokuhle Kunene.

She said she found no specific cause of death when she conducted the post mortems on the men after they took part in the RTI fitness test. Mancheva conducted three post mortems.

The commission is probing the deaths of eight people who died after participating in a fitness test for RTI job applicants in Pietermaritzburg in December. The victims took part in a four-kilometre run at the Harry Gwala Stadium.

More than 35,000 people qualified to apply for 90 advertised RTI trainee posts. Of these 15,600 attended a fitness test on December 27, and a similar number on December 28.

Mancheva said she found fatty changes in Kunene’s liver, which could be associated with heat exposure. She told the inquiry there were other causes of fatty changes in the liver, such as alcohol abuse and antiretroviral treatment.

Ravenda Padayachee, for the provincial transport department, said Kunene’s friend made a statement saying they drank alcohol regularly on weekends. According to the statement Kunene was a big person.

Padayachee asked Mancheva if it was possible for the fatty changes and hardened liver to be caused by Kunene being a heavy drinker. She said it was most likely.

Mancheva did not conduct a microscopic examination on Kunene which would have enabled her to assess changes in organs associated with heat stroke. She said she was not experienced in handling cases of heat stroke as she was still studying the subject.

Retired chief forensic pathologist Jan Botha criticised the post mortems done on the participants who died after the fitness test.

“Autopsies on heat-related deaths are complex, the unavailability of the toxicology results is regrettable.”

Botha said the autopsy results had information missing and described them as sketchy. He said the post mortems should have been conducted by a specialist.

“A person with significant skill in microscopic work should have examined the organs,” Botha said.

He said the clinical notes from the hospitals were difficult to assess because the copies were not clear and the handwriting was difficult to read.

The inquiry continues.



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