Lone hero pulls five girls from sea
Published: November 30, 2006 | 5107th good news item since 2003
‘I prayed that God would give me supernatural strength’
AN Mthatha man has emerged a hero after single-handedly pulling five young girls from churning seas when a Sunday school outing to the beach went horribly wrong at the weekend.
The drama, in which two girls survived, three were drowned and one is still missing, unfolded for Daniel Byrne and his girlfriend, Chandre Morrison, when they arrived at Port St Johns’ Third Beach for a swim at around 2pm on Sunday.
“As we arrived, I heard people scream for help and as I came closer to the water, I saw five people floating in the sea,” Byrne said yesterday.
“Their backs were visible and they were face-first in the water.
“I immediately took my shirt off and dived in.”
In order to keep the bodies in view he had to keep his head up in the tossing waves.
“The water was rough and there was a dangerous backwash,” he said.
He swam to the first of the five victims, took her in tow, and swam back to the beach.
“She had no pulse and I thought she was dead.”
He performed emergency resuscitation (CPR). When the girl revived, he went back into the water and pulled a second girl to the beach who, like the first girl, started breathing after he applied CPR.
But by then, an hour had already elapsed and by the time Byrne reached the third girl, she had already drowned.
“I tried desperately to save her, but she just did not respond.”
Byrne went back a fourth time. By now he was getting tired and he suspected that the fourth girl had not made it.
But for her parents’ sake, he knew he had to get the body “so her parents can get some closure”.
“As I went, I prayed that God would give me supernatural strength,” he said.
And, indeed, he managed to pull the girl to shore and even go back a fifth time for another body.
By now, an hour-and-a-half had gone by, and the body of the sixth girl had disappeared in the sea off the Wild Coast.
“I did not want to give up, as dangerous as it was,” he said.
But there was nothing more he could do.
Byrne, a landscaper in Mthatha, said the experience had left him traumatised.
“It was horrible, it was like one of those Hollywood horror movies,” he said.
Yesterday, the head of the United Pentecostal Church of South Africa, Pastor Desmond King, released the names of the girls who drowned.
They are Zizo Maqokolo, 11, Nasiphi Mzimba, 12, and Zimvo Mgeyi, 13. Buyiswa Besele, 16, is still missing.
In a joint statement, the parents said they were too traumatised to speak to the Daily Dispatch and were still mourning the deaths of their children.
Three of the affected families were neighbours in Mthatha’s Northcrest suburb, while a fourth family lives in Norwood.
Port St Johns’ National Sea Rescue Institute chief John Costello said that there were no lifeguards stationed at Third Beach at the time.
He urged bathers to use the ocean responsibly, saying: “People drown even when there are lifeguards.”