Bartender hailed as a hero for saving the lives of tourists washed out to sea by a rogue wave
Back in April, A Cape Town barman from the Brass Bell Restaurant and Pub in the fishing village of Kalk Bay saved the lives of a group of people washed out to sea by a rogue wave. Tongai Matandirotya, the angelic rescuer, has been praised as a hero for his mind-blowing act.
Matandirotya saw the tourists walking along the harbor from the window of the restaurant where he was serving drinks. Without considering his safety, Tongai Matandirotya jumped into the rescue mission when the rogue wave hit.
“I saw this wave come over the harbor and it covered the people, dragging them into the ocean. I immediately ran outside, undressed myself, and dived into the water because I saw a child go in as well. I have a very soft spot for kids, and my instinct just kicked in to see if I could help,” he said.
The rip current was extremely strong that day, and the water was so cold, according to Matandirotya. Although it was not safe to jump into the strong rip current, he had a strong power of determination and he jumped into action to help those in the water.
“I grabbed my belt from my pants before diving in and used it to pull the people out of the water. When I managed to get some of them to shore, I called for backup as there were still more people in the ocean. Others then dived in and started helping with the rescue,” Matandirotya said.
During the rescue mission, he got a bad scratch on his leg. “The scarring will probably be there permanently on my leg, but it’s okay; at least lives were saved.”
For over eight years, Matandirotya was there as a barman and had never seen such a massive wave, according to Matandirotya. “I still can’t believe what happened, it was such a nice sunny day, and suddenly just after lunchtime, the rip current started,” he said.
37-year-old Clair Gardiner and her 8-year-old daughter Arya van Hilten were among those swept away.
Gardiner had lunch at the White Bait restaurant and after finishing their lunch, they decided to go watch the seals, suddenly the rogue wave raised. “As we walked, a massive rogue wave knocked us into the harbor. Some of the people weren’t able to swim,” she said.
“It was hectic. When you’re in the moment, it’s much more dramatic. All I remember was grabbing my kid when I knew we would go over into the sea. I wrapped my arms around her and managed to get us safely away from the heavy waves,” she added.
She said that another man also jumped into the water to save the people.
“Arya was unable to float herself, and she started panicking. We couldn’t keep up in the water any longer as it was too much. The next thing I knew, there was a man next to us, and I frantically asked him to ‘please take my daughter out to the shore’. He did just that, and I was then able to gather the little bit of strength I had left, to get myself out of the water. I was exhausted!.” Gardiner said.
That’s when our hero Matandirotya jumped into the water and saved the people.
“I recently went to the restaurant to thank him. My daughter recognized him immediately, and we all embraced each other. We are so thankful to Tongai and the tourist man who risked their lives to save ours; we’ll forever be grateful to them,” she added.
75-year-old Angela Campbell was visiting her family in Cape Town. They decided to have lunch before going for a stroll alongside the harbor.
“I was pushing my great grandson’s buggy, it all happened so fast, one minute we were walking along, the next thing a wall of water swept me into the bay, it took my breath away. I remember going underwater, and I could not swim. I remember swallowing a lot of water, and I panicked,” she said.
“I looked around and realized I was in the water. I panicked! Eventually, I managed to turn over, but I then started sinking. I remember talking to myself, saying ‘God make it quick, I’m scared. A family member then pulled on my shirt and help swam me back to the surface,” she added.
Ethan Govender, Brass Bell restaurant spokesperson, said the staff and management team were impressed by Matandirotya’s bravery.
“We applaud him for his braveness in jumping into action to save those that fell into the ocean. Tongai is a wonderful, loveable, fun human being. His character speaks volumes, and we are immensely proud of the risk he took in saving lives,” Govender said.
Fortunately, no one lost their life that day because Tongai and other who helped out. Tongai is now being hailed a hero and praised for leaping into action despite risking his life.
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