Mom nearly drowns saving dog
Susan Cilliers, Beeld
Johannesburg - A Potchefstroom woman thought she was going to drown when she tried to save the family dog from a water canal near their home on Friday afternoon and got caught in a whirlpool.
“I wanted to exhale before the current took me so that I could die quickly,” said Gretha Joubert.
Joubert explained how she found Rex, a German Shepherd, in the canal after he ran out of the yard. He was treading water in a whirlpool under a cement slab. Behind him was a whirlpool leading to an underground tunnel.
“I held onto the cement slab and wanted to stand on the canal floor to pull Rex out,” said Joubert.
“When I put my foot down, the water grabbed me. I was still clinging to the slab. Rex lay down on my thighs.”
Joubert’s daughter, Carlinke, 14, who was with her mother, called her father, Professor Pieter Joubert. He immediately called his friend and police diver, Lieutenant Colonel Nick Rautenbach. When Rautenbach called his colleagues, Warrant Officer William Erasmus and Warrant Officer Ronald Lacock, they were just driving into Potchefstroom.
“The timing was just too coincidental to be coincidental,” said Professor Joubert.
Meanwhile, Carlinke – a strong rhythmic gymnast – held on to her mother’s hands after they slipped from the slab.
The slender Carlinke recently won a silver medal in rhythmic gymnastics at the South African championships. When she could no longer hold her mother’s hands and had to let go, her mother thought it was the end. The exhausted Rex pushed himself against his owner’s body.
“I felt guilty because I knew Carlinke would always feel she couldn’t save me,” said Joubert.
“I exhaled before the whirlpool could take me, but when I let go, I kicked out and anchored myself.”
Lacock and Erasmus arrived shortly afterwards. They had to make a noose for Joubert’s wrist because she was already too weak to hold onto a rope. Lacock lay on the cement slab and pulled Rex out. He, Erasmus and Professor Kobus van der Walt, a friend of the Jouberts, pulled Joubert out by the rope. Her clothes had been torn from her body by the water. Rex’s nails were worn down by the struggle in the canal.
Experienced police diver Rautenbach said they had to remove a boy’s body a little further on in the same canal two years ago.
He described Joubert’s rescue as a miracle.
Tears flowed freely after the rescue on Friday.
“It is the first time in two years that I am present when someone is pulled out of the water alive,” said Erasmus.