Deur Ashraf Hendricks en Thomas Kachere, GroundUp
Gardener John Manda is hailed as a hero after he rescued a man from a burning car in Rooi-els in the Western Cape.
Carel van Biljon, who lost the use of his legs after a stroke, was trapped in the passenger seat of his car when the exhaust pipe caught fire.
His wife Mitzi went looking for help.
Manda was working nearby and noticed the dark cloud of smoke. He rushed to the scene and rescued Van Biljon from the car.
Carel and Mitzi bought the 1997 Mercedes-Benz about eight years ago. They wanted to drive this car “until the end of their lives”.
The couple, both in their 80s, were very fond of the car.
However, when Carel had a stroke about six months ago, he could no longer drive the car. He had to use a walking ring to move around.
The couple decided to go for a drive on Thursday last week after being locked up for months due to Carel’s condition. Mitzi drove and they drove from Somerset West on the spectacular R44 all along the coast to Rooi-els.
The engine suddenly failed, the car stalled and smoke began to bubble from the trunk. Mitzi got out and opened the trunk. She saw flames on the exhaust pipe. She screamed for help – Carel was trapped in the car.
Manda, an immigrant from Malawi, worked nearby in a garden of one of the houses at Rooi-els.
He says he saw a dark cloud of smoke, about 200 meters from where he was working. He ran to the scene and saw the car standing in light drawers.
“I saw a woman outside the car. She looked helpless. I wanted to know if everything was okay, but she said ‘no’. The car’s windows were rolled up and only the driver’s door was open. I looked in and saw a man trapped in the front passenger seat. I believe he inhaled some of the smoke. God gave me the strength. I opened the door and carried him outside. Within a few minutes, someone else arrived and we were able to move him further away.”
Manda says it was not easy to pick up Carel and he also inhaled some of the smoke himself.
Firefighters were called. They arrived quickly and extinguished the fire.
Manda, originally from Nkhata Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi, has been in South Africa for eight years. Tragedy struck last year when his daughter passed away. Part of his house, where his wife lives, was destroyed by Cyclone Freddy this year.
He did not know the Van Biljons. “We all need each other. Whether you are rich, poor, educated or not, we must all help where we can.”
Carel says it all happened very quickly. “I was helped out of the car and laid on the ground.”
A resident of Rooi-els assisted the Van Biljons, gave them tea and arranged a ride back to Somerset West. The beloved Mercedes has been written off, but Carel lives.
When GroundUp spoke to Mitzi on Saturday, she shared a wonderful development. Her husband could stand on his own without his walking ring. With exercise, she believes his condition will improve.
- This post is originally on GroundUp published and used here with permission.
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