Fireman saves freezing woman at Howick Falls

2012-06-19 00:00

AN oath that fireman Ronnie Ndlovu once took to save lives drove him to the lip of Howick Falls yesterday to prevent a 27-year-old woman from plunging to her death.

Ndlovu rescued her when she had been stuck in the freezing water for almost an hour, after her jacket had been caught on a rock.

Only the top of her head was visible as the white water gushed over and around her, eyewitnesses told The Witness.

Ndlovu, who arrived at the scene before noon, had to move fast and could not wait for the specialist police rescue team to arrive.

He tied a rope around his waist, and some of the policemen who were already there held on to the other end.

Then he edged his way through the raging rapids at the edge of the 95-metre drop.

“I then tied a rope around her waist because she could not let go of whatever she was holding on to,” he said.

When he finally managed to pull her out, the traumatised woman was gasping for air.

“We took an oath to save people’s lives,” Ndlovu told The Witness afterwards.

“Had I not gone in to rescue her, I would not have been able to live with myself, knowing that we could have saved her, but did not attempt anything because we were waiting for professional rescuers.”

The professional rescuers were at another incident in Durban.

“I still don’t know what prevented her from falling because the water pressure was very high and she held on to a rock,” he said.

Ndlovu said he only became afraid after the woman was saved. That’s when he had flashes of what could have happened if they had both plunged over the falls to their deaths.

Ndlovu (39) grew up on Grootvlei Farm, near Howick, and worked as a taxi driver before he became a fireman in 1998.

He said he had loved the idea of being a firefighter ever since he was a child.

“I am happy to be part of something that saves people’s lives because that is what I always wanted to do.”

Other people also played their role in ensuring a life was saved yesterday.

Stan Goodenough of Friends of the Falls, which welcomes visitors and keeps the area clean, noticed the woman in the rapids.

He called Howick police commissioner Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Nyide.

“He was on leave, but he arrived within minutes and started making calls for backup. After a brief moment police and firefighters arrived,” said Goodenough.

“It was amazing to see the bravery of a giant fighter who risked his life to save the woman,” he said of Ndlovu.

The woman, from kwaHasa near Howick,was admitted to Northdale Hospital.

Hospital spokesperson Mandisa Dlamini said the woman told staff she was saved by her jacket which got stuck on the rocks, giving her enough time to be rescued.

The woman’s mother told The Witness her daughter headed for the falls after the Howick Magistrate’s Court had advised her family to sort out a dispute among themselves.

“Thank God she managed to survive this,” her tearful mother said.


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