'Don't leave me,' cries gran as 'Magnificent 8' save her from burning flat
News / 11 February 2020, 6:15pm / Tanya Waterworth
Durban: Leopard-crawling through a room filled with dense black smoke, they could hear the old woman calling “please don’t leave me”.
It was that cry for help that made Wentworth residents Brett Eddie and Brylan Kock determined to save the 79-year-old bedridden woman from the flames engulfing the modest flat in Silver Tree Road on Thursday afternoon.
Kock, 41, described how the community responded to the fire, with people rushing to save Lillian White and her 57-year-old, special needs son, Roland.
“We were sitting by the tree on the corner when Rowin Saunders spotted thick black smoke and went to have a look. He came rushing back, saying there was a flat on fire and that people were still inside. We ran to the flat and other guys, who were in the nearby shopping complex, also came rushing down to help.
“Two guys, Malcolm Govender and Hayden Bennie, came out with Roland (White) and he was in shock. The neighbours told us the granny, Lillian, was still inside,” said Kock.
He and Eddie wrapped their sweaters around their mouths and went into the smoke-filled flat.
“The smoke was about half a metre off the ground, so we had to leopard crawl. We could hear the flames. I grabbed on to Brett’s belt and we moved along, using the oxygen on the ground,” he said, adding that they felt their way towards the bedroom where White was trapped.
“By that time the other guys outside were putting water (on the fire), we were engulfed in smoke even though we were right next to each other, that’s how black it was.”
Gasping for oxygen, the two men had to back out of the flat.
“We had to take some breaths and then we went back in. Brett knew the configuration of the flat, so he led the way. We both stayed low and I held onto Brett’s belt.
“We knew we were near the bedroom door, but couldn’t see. I fumbled against the wall and found the door handle and kicked in the door. We could hear the granny saying ‘please don’t leave me’.
“The guys outside started pushing in the burglar guards, we knew we couldn’t take the old lady out through the lounge,” said Kock, who went back outside to help at the window.
Eddie lifted the woman up and the men pulled her out through the window.
“We had to hose down her legs. There was lots of black phlegm coming out of her mouth and we were coughing and vomiting from all the smoke,” said Kock.
Working in the petrol refinery industry, Kock said he had been on firefighting training and on-site drills, which had given him the basic skills to go into the burning flat.
“I think it was adrenalin and just to know that a granny needed help. We all have grannies and are a close-knit community. There are a lot of stories about drugs and gangs in Wentworth, but there are also good people here,” said Kock.
Councillor for Austerville, Merebank and part of Jacobs, Aubrey Snyman, described the group of rescuers as “the magnificent eight”.
“They played a vital role in saving the old lady who is paralysed. It was very brave of them to go into that fire and all that smoke.
“They got the son out first, who was in a daze, and they were determined to go back and get the old lady. They knew there was real danger.
“There were eight guys involved in total and I really applaud them for their heroism.
“For all the negativity we hear about in my ward, this was so positive seeing our community come together and going into action. These are the kind of people we have in Wentworth,” he said.
Aubrey added that Lillian White had been taken to hospital and was recovering.
The Independent on Saturday tried to get comment from the White family, but the phone was switched off.