Former lifesaver braves raging waters to rescue drowning students
20 July 2017: A heroic Port Elizabeth pensioner stripped and plunged into choppy seas yesterday after a group of students became caught in dangerous rip currents off Hobie Beach, plucking two of them from the icy water.
A third student is still missing. Retired municipal lifeguard Peter Brits – who goes to the beach to swim every day – said the drama had begun shortly after the large group of students from Lusikisiki stopped at the car park in three minibuses.
“I was sitting in my car and decided not to swim today as it was raining and cold,” 68-year-old Brits said.
“I saw the minibuses pulling into the car park. Within minutes, there was a large group of about 20 people on the beach.
“Initially, only a handful went swimming, but the rest joined them a short while later. I was thinking about calling the beach office to inform them that there could be a situation.
“Within seconds, I saw one group drifting out to sea. I grabbed my phone and called someone to get hold of the beach office for help.
“While I was phoning, I was taking off my clothes as I could see them drifting further out,” a cold and shivering Brits said.
“As I ran down to the beach, I jumped into the water and managed to grab the first person who was floating about 50m out to sea.
“He tried to grab me while panicking, but I hit him off and turned him around to keep his head above the water.
“I then swam backwards, pulling him back to the beach.”
Within seconds, Brits ran back into the freezing water.
“The second person was about 150m out to sea, past the [Shark Rock] pier,” he said. “When I got to him, his head was under water already. I grabbed his head and pulled him up – and he started breathing.
“I turned him on his back and started swimming backwards to the beach.
“When I got him to the beach, he was out of it. His eyes were turning and he didn’t know his name or where he was.
“The lifeguards arrived within minutes and went to search for the third person. It all just happened so quickly that I did not even see the third person out there. He was just gone.”
One of the rescued students, Mzuvele Mqikwa, 23, was treated for shock and hypothermia, while the other, Tyhoba Sihle, 26, was taken to hospital.
Information and image, courtesy of the Herald