Hero cop awarded for saving four people from drowning in one day

2015-11-30 09:45
Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith with Officer Masibulele Diko. (Photo supplied by City of Cape Town)

Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith with Officer Masibulele Diko. (Photo supplied by City of Cape Town)

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Cape Town – Memories of the day a Khayelitsha cop desperately tried to get his baby breathing again while his wife sped to the nearest hospital still give him cold sweats.

But for law enforcement officer Masibulele Diko, 35, that proved to be the perfect trial run for a day, many months later, when he would save four men after going for a "quick check-in" at Monwabisi beach.

His heroic efforts were rewarded on Thursday evening when he received the overall award for Officer of the Year from the City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Directorate.

The directorate also awarded other staff members at the annual ceremony, designed to recognise the efforts of staff members who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect the public.

"When they called my name, I just jumped up, like a child. I was so excited," he said. "But you know it made me so happy that I could get that man to breathe again. That day, all I heard were people screaming and panicking while I had to keep my cool."

‘I saw someone floating face-down’

It was a hot day on October 27 when Diko, a qualified lifeguard, and a colleague did routine patrols.

As a member of the Marine Unit, they work the stretch between Macassar and Strandfontein.

READ MORE: It's just my job, says hero cop who pulled woman from river

Although it was a weekday, Monwabisi Beach was packed as people sought reprieve from the heat.

"It was just before 14:00, when our shift was due to end, but I decided to hang around a while because I was worried about the huge volumes of people. There was no lifeguard on duty that day, and as I was looking down to the people splashing in the water, I saw someone floating face-down in the water."

Diko swam the 25 metres to where the man was, and realising he was unconscious, swam with him back to the beach. There he administered CPR "for two cycles" and finally he heard the sound that made it all worthwhile - the coughing and wheezing breath coming from the victim.

"I was overcome with thankfulness and relief," he said as he remembered that moment. "There were all the people buzzing around me, but all I could see was that man's face."

Moments later...

Barely catching his own breath though, ambulance personnel were still busy loading the 32-year-old man into the ambulance when loud screaming pierced the air.

"I ran back in, and there was a man who got into trouble in the water. I think the current took him. I swam with him back to safety."

Realising that it would be a good idea to call for back-up, he asked his supervisor to bring a jet ski so he could patrol on the water. Thinking calm had been restored, Diko was just heading to his car to get some water when - once again - he heard loud panicky screams. This time it was two men who got into trouble in the surf.

READ MORE: Detective receives appreciation award

And in he went again, but not before rallying bystanders to drag the jet ski into the water.

"They were close to the breakwall, and when I reached them I cut the engine, and dragged first the one man then the other onto it."

‘An exemplary feat’

Finally at 19:00, almost five hours after his shift was supposed to end - and after day that already started at 05:30 - he finally made it home.

"I didn't feel tired, I just felt so happy that I could help those people. The whole night I thought about the guy who was taken to hospital, and when I heard he was released a few days later, my heart lifted right out of my chest."

There were words of praise for Diko at the awards.

"What Officer Diko did on that warm Tuesday afternoon was an exemplary feat and a true inspiration. He embodies the dedication and effort we strive for to ensure public safety and is the type of employee who makes me truly proud to be associated with this directorate," said the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith.

READ MORE: Man threatens to jump off bridge, cops step in

For Diko, however, it also brought back the memory of resuscitating his own 6-month-old baby Siwapiwe (meaning given as a gift).

"She was just 2-weeks-old at the time and my wife Monyameko was just done feeding her when I got home from work. About ten minutes later I noticed the baby has lost all colour, and I shouted to my wife [that] the little one has stopped breathing."

The frantic parents rushed the child to hospital - mom behind the wheel, dad on the backseat giving CPR.

"I did not even think if I was doing it right. And then, as we got to Spine Road, she started breathing again. We are still saying thank you many times, all the time that she is safe."

And, he smiled, saving those strangers that day on the beach really felt as good as saving his own baby.

Other awards included the Department of the Year to the City’s Fire and Rescue Service "for their Herculean effort in helping to suppress the South Peninsula fires in March".

Read more on:    police  |  cape town  |  good news

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