South African firefighter Prince Zwide Masuku may not have been on the clock when he encountered a family of three in distress, but that didn’t stop him from saving their lives.
Masuku, 32, was driving home through flooded streets after a nightshift at Fairview fire station on Nov. 1 when he witnessed a car swerve off the road. The car rolled near Huntersfield Stadium in Katlehong and slipped into a reservoir.
“I was driving in the oncoming lane and saw the car swerving and immediately made a U-turn, stopped, and jumped into the water to get the family out of the car,” Masuku related to Sowetan Live.
After heavy rains, the water in the reservoir had risen to shoulder height. While onlookers pulled out their phones to record the scene, Masuku waded in without hesitation and toward the car containing the Tshabalala family of three.
“The fireman training kicked in, the fear went away, the family was my priority,” Masuku told Briefly. “So I started by checking where the water was coming in from.”
Masuku retrieved an 18-year-old girl from the car by her school bag, then her 9-year-old brother, and finally their mother. The firefighter bandaged the boy’s head, believing he had struck the dashboard as the car rolled off the road.
Masuku—who maintains that witnesses should always try to help, as opposed to watching or recording with their phones—was assisted out of the water by a number of passersby, one of whom called for an ambulance.
When EMS arrived on the scene, the mother was carefully placed on a spine board, reporting neck pain, before the family was taken to the hospital for assessment. Masuku later visited them at their home; the mom had a neck brace, the son was sporting a few head stitches, and the daughter was still coping with trauma, he said, and may benefit from counseling.
Fortunately, all three had escaped with their lives.
The firefighter shared afterthoughts on the dramatic off-duty rescue on Facebook. “I will definitely not Stop Praying for The Strength and Energy, Braveheart that God Has Been able to give me today,” he wrote. “This day has been the highlight of my Career and As a Man in the Society.”
Masuku told Briefly that as a child, he would point at every fire engine he saw and “go crazy.” He never wanted to be anything else but a firefighter.
Today, Masuku mentors the firefighters of the future by speaking at educational events, including his own former high school and former fire college. He stayed true to his dream to serve others and save lives—a dream exemplified by his heroic actions last month.
“We took an oath to help the community, so this was one of the off-duty things that I did,” Masuku reflected. “I was not going to pass by whether I was off-duty or not.”
Fairview fire station commander Michael Matlawe praised Masuku for being “a guy who is very calm, collected, punctual, and very committed to his work.”
On Nov. 6, Masuku received a salute from the drill squad, of the City of Johannesburg, marching in formation in his honor, for his heroism.
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