Beach holiday nightmare

2013-03-30 00:00

A CAREFREE holiday at the beach almost turned into tragedy for a beach-goer from Johannesburg when a skateboard plummeted off a nearby lifeguard tower and split open her scalp.

Furniture designer Monique van Zyl (24) was holidaying at Uvongo with her family on Human Rights Day, March 21, resting in the shade beneath the lifeguard tower, when she suffered a painful blow to the head.

A fountain of blood poured over her face. The pain was so severe she almost passed out.

She realised that a heavy skateboard had hit her on the head after it had slipped off the edge of the tower.

She went up the steps to the lifeguard tower to seek help and one of the shocked lifeguards admitted they had been playing around with the skateboard, when it flipped over the edge.

Van Zyl said: “I then realised the severity of what had happened, knowing this heavy object had plummeted a few storeys onto my head.

“One of the lifeguards suddenly came and sprayed my face with some unknown substance, probably Dettol, which caused irritation to my eyes, nose and throat. But he completely missed the wounded area on my skull.”

She was taken to the casualty section of a hospital in Margate with a police escort. She waited for two hours while a doctor was paged. He shaved her head and gave her 20 stitches as her scalp had been separated from her skull. She underwent a CT scan to check for brain damage and was given a neck brace.

She is furious at the incident and the fact that the lifeguards behaved irresponsibly and had no idea how to handle an emergency.

“These so-called lifeguards are supposed to be responsible for saving people’s lives and they have no clue how to behave.”

A lifeguard reportedly received a previous warning about taking the skateboard up to the tower. Van Zyl said the lifeguards on duty were very young; the oldest was only 20.

She is now half-bald and has thick stitches crossing her scalp in a gruesome line.

“I am not a vain person but I feel really ugly. Only the day before I was tanning on the beach, feeling really good.”

Van Zyl’s family contacted the lifeguards’ manager and the municipality, but have received no response.

The next day, the Van Zyl family went back to the scene to get answers and discovered that the lifeguards, who were still using the skateboard, had had no emergency medical training.

The incident had not been reported to anyone in management and no disciplinary action had been taken against the lifeguard who was responsible.

Van Zyl said: “My holiday was ruined and I am embarrassed by the way I look, but it could have been worse; I could have lost my life. I want to take legal action so they can take responsibility for their actions.”

She said the family had to pay for another week at the coast as she couldn’t travel home in that condition. The bills for her medical costs are still rolling in.

“I’m still struggling to get over this. I’m trying to focus on the fact that it could have been far worse and I am having counselling. You hear about these crazy accidents and never think they could happen to you.”

Weekend Witness called Leon Garbade, the operations manager of the Tower 13 lifeguards.

He said the incident was highly regrettable. “I was extremely distressed to hear about what had happened and we are currently in a disciplinary procedure with the lifeguard who was responsible for the incident.

“He was off-duty at the time of the incident and he should not have been on the tower with the skateboard. He is being charged with gross misconduct and it is quite likely he will be relieved of his duties.”

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