Tshwane’s finest to the rescue

2011-01-22 17:08

In the dark, early hours of Wednesday morning, floodwater tossed the car of a young woman off a bridge on Nelmapius Road, near ­Pretoria.

Carla (last name unknown) is alive today, not only because her car was stopped by a tree and she managed to get herself onto the roof – trapped by strong currents on both sides of the car; but also because two caring Tshwane Metro Police officers waded ­waist-deep into the water to get near enough to speak to her to give her courage, while a team of highly trained Tshwane ­firefighters prepared their gear to brave the ­angry water.

She is alive because the members of the rescue team risked their lives to save hers.

The man who carried Carla to safety on his back, 49-year-old district commander Marius du Toit, promptly threatened to stop the interview when City Press referred to this deed as heroic.

“I am not a hero,” he says. And his ­irritation is not a pose.

This veteran of rescue-and-relief work in India, Pakistan, Iran and Haiti detests the term, which he regards as rather “windgat” (to be a braggart) and cheap.

The young girl praised the rescue team and called them angels, he recalls. The team delivered her into the arms of friends who were waiting. “They grabbed her and cried tears of happiness and relief.”

But the team’s actions did not constitute heroism, Du Toit reiterates.

He regards it as a “privilege” not only to help people in distress, but also to be a ­member of a team comprising the best in the world.

“One is a little tired and, yes, one is ­relieved. But the truth is that this is a job I need. I need to be part of such a team. I am, in truth, a soldier.”

The members of the rescue team know Carla’s first name because they had to speak to her during the rescue.

But they did not ask other details after the rescue effort, because members of the public do not get billed for being rescued in emergency situations such as these.

Carla’s rescue team consisted of Paul ­Cullumbine, Fanie Brill, Neels Kruger and Du Toit, as well as the two unidentified officers who kept her calm.

Sylvia Sebesho and Ernest Matlala were the other members of the team, which was called out at 3am on Wednesday after heavy rains in a short period caused chaos in areas south of Pretoria.

They were called because they have all passed water-rescue courses and have the state-of-the-art equipment necessary to deal with this type of situation.

Another woman, whose car was washed off a bridge on Main Road just outside Irene, was also rescued by this team on ­Wednesday.


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