PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa – Within minutes of a traumatic crash on Tuesday afternoon, Parsons Hill Primary School governing body chair Charlie Gillett and principal Clinton Saddler arrived to help. Read here
On Wednesday morning the two men were in a Port Elizabeth hospital, at the bedside of Rochelle Velkers, 26, the driver of an Opel that had been pinned under a truck, to see how she was recovering.
An emotional Velkers began to cry, “Thank you, Charlie, thank you. You are my angel,” she said.
Velkers was injured when the truck, parked outside the school in Potgieter Street, rolled down the hill, across Diaz Road and down a one-way embankment — landing on Velkers’s Opel as she drove past.
Gillett 71, sprang into action after hearing the crash.
“I was in the school at the time and the workers were rushing to the accident. I went with them and saw the car under the truck. Initially I thought it could have been an accident involving some of our kids,” he said.
“When I got there, I jumped down from the wall and climbed underneath the truck. At that stage we all thought there could also be a child inside the vehicle.
“I saw a hand and leg sticking out and started chatting with the driver. She was very disoriented. I just kept telling her I am not leaving and we are going to get her out. I knew I had to keep her awake. Every time I felt her dozing off, I would squeeze her hand and carry on talking to her.”
Gillett said he had spent about 45 minutes holding Velkers’ hand while lying under the truck.
“All that was going through my mind was that I must help this woman. I did not think about the truck landing on me or anything. The car was badly crushed. I could not see her face or anything,” he said.
“The fact she survived with fairly minor injuries is nothing short of amazing.”