Fireman suffers ‘only a broken leg’ after 35 m fall

2012-07-05 00:00

A FIRE-FIGHTER sustained leg and head injuries after he fell down a

35 metre cliff in an attempt to put out a veld fire in Hillcrest yesterday morning.

ER24 spokesperson Andre Visser said paramedics recognised the seriousness of the situation on arrival and tried to get to the fire-fighter, Vincent Nxele, as swiftly as possible.

Rescutech volunteer Nic Holmes abseiled down the cliff to reach the injured 46-year-old.

“He is freaking lucky to only have broken his leg,” tweeted Holmes.

Nxele told his rescuers that he had to drag himself 60 metres in retreat from the fire.

Holmes said the fire-fighter had fallen about 35 metres.

“Due to the poor visibility and poor terrain he fell,” said Melvin Ramlall, the Durban fire department’s western region commander.

“The patient was accessed soon after we located him.”

Ramlall confirmed that by late yesterday morning Nxele had been stabilised and airlifted to St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban.

“He’s been very lucky.”

Ramlall said Nxele would be undergoing surgery on a fractured femur and that his head injuries were superficial.

“He’s in good spirits … We are very, very pleased that the fireman is well and stable”, he said after visiting Nxele in hospital yesterday afternoon.

Netcare spokesperson Chris Botha said paramedics, a SA Police Service search-and-rescue unit, private services and the air force combined their expertise to rescue the striken fireman.

Ramlall said that in the rough conditions, two backup plans were in place in case an airlift became impossible.

“There was a bit of a delay with the helicopter, but we cannot confirm the cause of the delay,” Ramlall said.

The firefighter remained coherent and conscious as he waited to be airlifted.

The fireighter is from the Gillitts fire station, which received a call around 2 am on Wednesday about an extremely large veld fire in Winston Park, Hillcrest. By yesterday afternoon the fire was under control and the fire department had set up crews to protect houses that were still vulnerable.

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