JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – “God put me in the right place at the right time,” said Joburg emergency firefighter Prince Masuku, who was driving home after night shift when he rescued a mother and her two children from a sinking car.
The off-duty Fairview Fire Station firefighter has been hailed as a hero.
“While driving home to Katlehong, I saw a car swerving off the road.
“My professional instincts kicked in and, without thinking, I did a U-turn and went to help.”
Masuku said he was worried at first because he could not see how deep the water was. He took off his uniform and waded to the car.
“I was a bit nervous because I’m not the best swimmer and the water was at my shoulder height. Luckily, although the car’s windows were closed, the doors were unlocked and I managed to get the 9-year-old on to my back and carry him to safety.
“I then went back to get the teenage daughter and also managed to carry her out. The mother was able to walk out, with my assistance, to safety,” he said.
In the meantime, other vehicles stopped, but many had passengers they had to get to work.
One called emergency services. “Some motorists and passers-by managed to keep the family safe until an ambulance arrived,” Masuku said.
The driver, Fikile Tshabalala, also a Katlehong resident, said she saw a huge puddle of water and tried to avoid it, but there was an oncoming car and she swerved and skidded off the road, landing up in a large pool of water, which is not officially a lake but a flooded roadside.
Masuku went to visit the family at her home this week and she thanked him profusely for saving their lives, saying her children would not have survived without his help.
The three were only slightly injured, with her son receiving a cut on his forehead and his mother a neck injury.
“God put me there at the right time and helped me to save them,” said the fireman, who qualified in 2014 but was unemployed for five years before his “lucky” break last year when he was employed by the City of Joburg’s emergency services.