The incredible way this 6-year-old boy saved his little brother's life

By Jana van der Merwe
11 March 2016

“I told him he was Mommy’s, his brother’s and my hero and that what he’d done was very brave,” his overwhelmed father said.

The father and mother of the two-year-old boy who was saved from drowning in their swimming pool in Centurion last Friday by his six-year-old brother are overjoyed to have their youngest child back home after almost a week of anxiety.

It was a freak accident that landed little Markus Vermaas in the swimming pool in a blink of an eye while playing with the neighbour’s children. His older brother, Stephan (6), immediately jumped into the pool and rescued him.

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“It was by the grace of God. Stephan was just His instrument,” his mom, Liza (34), an artist, said.

“We’re all incredibly grateful to be under one roof again. Stephan and (his brother) are inseparable. Stephan is definitely his little brother’s hero. He always has been and now more than ever, although Markus has no idea what happened. Markus still has a little mucus on his chest due to the infection in his lungs, but I’m keeping him at home and medicating him.”

ero Stephan (6) with his brother, Markus (2), in his arms. Hero Stephan (6) with his brother, Markus (2), in his arms.

Frans (34), the children’s father, says he praised Stephan for his bravery after the incident. “I told him he was Mommy’s, his brother’s and my hero and that what he’d done was very brave.”

Frans, a manager of a tent-manufacturing company, says Stephan is receiving trauma counselling at school.

Read more: Brave 12-year-old with Down Syndrome saves little sister from drowning

After the dreadful incident on 4 March Markus’ parents spent day and night by their child’s bedside in the intensive-care unit of the Netcare Garden City Hospital in Johannesburg.

On the fateful day Markus was playing with his brother, Stephan, and the neighbour’s children in the front garden. Frans and Liza were still in the process of installing a deck around the swimming pool behind the house so the cover wasn’t in place.

Liza was keeping an eye on the children – through an open window when she was inside the house. She says they live in a security complex in a dead-end street and the children always play on their bikes.

Then the worst thing any parent can experience happened.

The Vermaas family (from left): dad Frans, Stephan (6), Markus (2) and mom Liza. The Vermaas family (from left): dad Frans, Stephan (6), Markus (2) and mom Liza.

Shortly before the incident Liza noticed Stephan going to the pool to fetch his blow-up shark. “He went to fetch the shark to frighten the other boys with it,” she says.

She told him to put it back in the pool because it might get torn if it was out of the pool. Markus was chasing the other children with a broom. She told him to put the broom back in the open garage.

It’s believed Markus went through the garage to fetch his blow-up toy from the pool to chase his friends with it. Moments later, while Stephan was putting his shark back in the pool, Liza heard him scream.

Read more: Four-year-old girl drowns in mom’s bath while ‘reaching for her toy ducks’

He’d already jumped into the pool to save his brother. He was standing with Markus in his arms, crying hysterically. He thought little Markus was dead.

Markus’ lips were already blue when Liza began to apply first aid. Markus began to regain consciousness and vomited water. She rushed him to the nearest hospital.

Later that night he was transferred by helicopter to Garden City, where he was treated until Wednesday.

Frans shared his heart on Facebook on Wednesday night. “I never post on Facebook but tonight I want to say thank you for everyone’s messages, calls, caring, support and especially prayers in the past few days,” he wrote.

“My heart is overflowing with gratitude. Markus is back at home and almost his old self. All just grace from Above.”

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