Big-hearted medic critical after hitting hippo on ‘road of death’

2017-01-31 17:06
Ambulance driver Liver Maila, who is in a critical condition after the vehicle hit a hippo. (Supplied)

Ambulance driver Liver Maila, who is in a critical condition after the vehicle hit a hippo. (Supplied)

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Cape Town – An ambulance driver is in a critical condition after he hit a hippo on Mpumalanga’s so-called “road of death”, killing the animal.

Mercia Blake, who runs Life 24 Ambulance Services with her husband Charl, said they were praying for Liver Maila, 37, to pull through because he had done so much for others.

Maila broke both legs and an arm. It was not clear what internal injuries he sustained.

He, Jimmy Makola and another colleague were returning to Marble Hall after a patient drop-off in Johannesburg on Monday night when they got a call to attend to an accident in KwaMhlanga.

As they drove along Moloto Road, which is renowned for being a high accident zone, a hippo ran across the road near Roodeplaat Dam.

“The guy behind them said our ambulance was driving 100km/h when out of the blue, this animal came raging out of the tall grasses,” Blake told News24 on Tuesday.

“There was literally no time to brake. They hit the animal head-on.”

Blake said the right side of the ambulance took the full impact.

Makola was in the passenger seat and looked over to Maila, who apparently told him “I am injured. Ambulance please”.

Their colleague in the back seat was shocked but uninjured.

Makola managed to kick open the door and phoned Blake. When she answered she heard strange noises and “help, help”. She did not know who it was.

Used to fielding emergency calls, she asked the person to breathe, calm down, and give a location. He gave the location and then told her who he was. She immediately dispatched a vehicle.

“He partially bit off the right side of his tongue. He had blood in the mouth and that is why he couldn’t really talk. He must have been in shock,” said Blake.

The driver behind the ambulance also phoned for help.


The ambulance after it hit a hippo. (Supplied)

Grateful for small miracles

It took a rescue team an hour-and-a-half to extricate Maila from the wreckage. The Blakes rushed to the accident scene and was relieved to see Maila alive and breathing.

“In any medical situation, you work with the golden hour. He received exactly the treatment he needed in that hour. It was by God’s grace that the right people got there at the right time.”

Blake was in disbelief when she saw the size of the hippo.

“If he was driving faster, there would have been nothing left of the two people in front.”

She said Maila went above and beyond the call of duty to help accident victims.

His specialty was helping accident victims without medical aid, and in a critical condition, to be treated at a semi-private hospital in Benoni.

He never hesitated to write out accident reports and make contact with the Road Accident Fund.

Maila, from Siyabuswa, had volunteered for the company and was in the process of being contracted.

Unbelievably, Maila previously survived an accident on the same road, in which their ambulance hit a vehicle making a U-turn. The vehicle was written off.

“Both times he was innocent. Maybe he got this good treatment for all the great things he has done,” said Blake.

They were grateful for small miracles. It did not seem as though their new ambulance, which had yet to be insured, would be a write-off.

“You get high accident zone signs there but there is no sign saying beware of stray animals or hippos,” said Blake, who only got to bed early on Tuesday morning.

“We see the most horrific accidents on that road. We never take any chances.”


A hippo was hit in a head-on collision and died. (Supplied)


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