Brave men who helped Mondli Cele crash victims

2016-01-19 11:14
Part-time Durban lifeguard Phillip Radebe (28), who pulled Maritzburg United midfielder Mondli Cele from the wreckage of his car on Sunday morning.

Part-time Durban lifeguard Phillip Radebe (28), who pulled Maritzburg United midfielder Mondli Cele from the wreckage of his car on Sunday morning. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg -Two men have described how they risked their lives by wading into the Duzi River to help the victims of the crash that claimed the life of Mondli Cele and SABC sports journalist Delisile Ngwenya on Sunday.

Part-time Durban lifeguard Phillip Radebe, 28, hauled Cele’s motionless body from the wreckage. But before his heroic endeavour, another good Samaritan — security guard Njabulo Mbhense, 26 — saved the lives of two female passengers by pulling them from the water.

The survivors, Nonhle Mfeka and Nompilo Sithole, who according to their Facebook pages live in Durban, were sitting at the back of the white Nissan Almera the Maritzburg United midfielder was driving when it crashed into the river on Sunday morning.

Cele was resuscitated at the scene of the crash on Park Drive, but later died in hospital. Ngwenya’s lifeless body was pulled from the vehicle by the police search-and-rescue team.

Speaking to The Witness on Monday, Mbhense said he was fishing when he saw the car speeding towards him.

“The driver was speeding and he pressed the brakes to stop for the speed bump, but it looked like he lost control because the roads were wet. I heard the tyres screeching and the car was slipping all over before it overturned and went into the river,” Mbhense said.

He rushed over to find Mfeka and Sithole, who had both managed to get out of the vehicle, screaming for help while trying to stay afloat.

“They were out of the car but they could not swim. I went in the water and pulled them both out,” he said.

“I feel good about saving their lives.”

Paramedics arrived soon after but, according to Radebe, who came running in behind them, they would not go in after Cele and Ngwenya because they “were not divers”.

Radebe said he was walking to Alexandra High School for a triathalon meeting when an ambulance sped past him.

With curiosity getting the better of him, Radebe rushed over to the crash site, where he was told that two people were still stuck in the submerged wreckage. “Only the back two tyres could be seen; the rest of the car was underwater,” he said.

Already wearing a costume under his clothes, Radebe immediately stripped down and went in after the remaining victims.

“I was scared, but I had to do something. The water was deep and I could not see a thing. I had to use my imagination and feel my way around,” he said.

He entered the car through the back door and pulled Cele through the gap between the two front seats, before going back in for Ngwenya.

“I could not pull her out. She was stuck. I think her seat belt was holding her down,” he said.

“The moment I pulled him [Cele] out, I started focusing on the lady [Ngwenya]. I could not help and the police divers arrived, so I decided to go. I was told on my way to the race that the man I saved was Mondli Cele,” Radebe said.

“I felt sad to hear he died. I guess when it is your time, nothing can help.”

Women in Media (WIM) KwaZulu-Natal on Monday paid tribute to Ngwengya, describing her as a “delicate and passionate journalist”.

News24 reported that WIM spokesperson Dudu Khoza said Ngwenya joined the organisation in May last year, while an SABC sports intern based at Ukhozi FM.

“She had been an active member, always available when necessary to lend a hand in organising WIM activities,” Khoza said.

The details of Cele’s funeral have yet to be announced.

Read more on:    mondli cele  |  pietermaritzburg

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