Fireman saves woman at Howick Falls

2012-06-19 08:19

Pietermaritzburg - An oath that fireman Ronnie Ndlovu once took to save lives drove him to the lip of Howick Falls on Monday 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, bystanders 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 minibus 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 on Monday.

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.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts.

  • FoodforThought - 2012-06-19 08:22

    Give that man a bells...

      Msika - 2012-06-19 08:56

      And while at it, promote him to Fire Chief!!

      Zambezi - 2012-06-19 09:28

      So there is hope for taxi drivers after all!

      Klippies - 2012-06-19 09:37

      We need more people like that in the world. A real hero!

      Janice - 2012-06-19 12:07

      He deserves a huge reward!!!

  • ntunjab - 2012-06-19 08:25

    Give that Man a Bells! We need more competent ppl like him!

  • chantalvj - 2012-06-19 08:29

    Well done you brave man! Thank you for making us proud to have you working for us!!

  • Rabble-Rouser - 2012-06-19 08:30

    Bravo Ndlovu. An act of bravery indeed. You deserve a medal.

  • robynhalstead - 2012-06-19 08:31

    A true hero! Awesome story

  • carol.dempers - 2012-06-19 08:34

    It is so amazing to open up News24 and see a positive Story for a change. A damsel in distress, a knight in shining armour and a happily everafter.\r\n\r\nRonnie you are truly a hero and it is comforting to know that SA still has someone like you around to keep us safe!

  • Taita - 2012-06-19 08:36

    Well done, Ronnie! You sir, are awesome! G'luck to the lady in question, I hope this incident helps you to find another way to deal with that which caused this. Be strong.

  • Zeezoh - 2012-06-19 08:38

    well done ndlovu, gatsheni omkulu, but i cant shake the feelin she was tryin to commit suicide, after the court outcome "dispute amoung themselve"

      Bless Boswell - 2012-06-19 09:33

      Maybe she was trying to commit suicide, but it wasn't her time. Suicide is devastating on those who are left behind. Thank heaven she was saved and her family was spared the trauma. My husband committed suicide 22 years ago, and I still don't know why...

  • Andre - 2012-06-19 08:40

    One often underestimates the power of water. This was indeed an act of bravery and Mr Ndlovu truly deserves the title of Hero. Give him a medal.

  • Arthur - 2012-06-19 08:40

    May your God Bless you Sir.

  • Arthur - 2012-06-19 08:41

    May your God Bless you Sir.

  • Francois - 2012-06-19 08:44

    mooi man!!!

  • chris.gill.9849 - 2012-06-19 08:46

    People like this make me proud to be South African.

  • deana.boshoff - 2012-06-19 08:47

    Well done Ronni! We need more men like you in SA- men who strive to save lives instead of taking lives! I applaud your courage! Your family can be proud of you! I know the Lord will reward and bless your courage an kind heart!

  • simphiwelucas.chauke - 2012-06-19 08:52

    Bravo 2 u Mr Ndlovu,we need more ppl lyk u in this country. The woman

  • martin.gee.godfrey - 2012-06-19 12:30

    Nice to have some good news and a happy ending for a change.

  • Pat - 2012-06-19 13:41

    and zuma taking a train makes bigger headline news!! the world we live in???? :(

  • Linette Myburgh - 2012-06-19 17:27

    Great stuff!! Give that man a Bells !!

      deana.boshoff - 2012-06-19 18:47

      Make it a year's supply!

  • Vince.York - 2012-06-19 18:49

    South African HERO "Ronnie Ndlovu" shows the world what humanity is all about!

  • raj.maharaj.520 - 2012-06-19 20:55

    Well Done Ronnie Ndlovu, I am very proud of you for being so brave and putting your own life at risk to save that lady. The municipality and the people of Howick should be proud to have such a hero in their region. You definitely deserve a medal for your bravery. I wish that each businessman could contribute a small amount towards the purchase of a medal and make it an honorable \r\nevent in Howick. Recently the rate of suicide is on the increase nationally, remember Suicide is no easy way out.

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