A hero with a spade

2014-07-21 00:00

A MAN who escaped a collapsed trench south of Durban has been hailed as an unsung hero in the 11-hour rescue of his friend.

Yesterday, 29-year-old Nkosinathi Vilakazi was recovering with a suspected fractured pelvis at Albert Luthuli hospital. He had been trapped for almost half a day with very little air in the three-metre deep trench, trapped beneath rubble, sand and rising sewage.

He and another co-worker had been working on a retaining wall on a bank at a private property in Lotus Park.

Andreas Mathios, a member of the community emergency network SA CAN, said a co-worker identified only as “Thabo” led the digging and bucket-line work all day, as fire fighters and SAPS search and rescue officers effected a complex rescue.

“Thabo only just escaped the collapse himself, but he stayed the entire day to make sure his colleague got out,” said Mathios. “For me, he was a real hero of the day. He worked his spade until he was exhausted, and then he created a bucket chain to remove the water — and all the time he was keeping his friend calm, which is crucial.”

ER24 official Derrick Banks said it remained unclear whether Vilakazi had been working inside the trench at the time of the collapse, or whether he had fallen in with the collapsing bank.

“He was trapped in sewage, boulders and sand — there could have been more casualties if the situation didn’t go the way it did,” he said.

ER24 spokesperson Luyanda Majija said the patient was recovering from both dehydration and respiratory acidosis, but “he is in a stable condition and is now being treated for his suspected severe pelvic fracture and leg injuries.

“The rescue was made difficult mainly by water refilling the trench as rapidly it was being drained,” she said.

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