Hero is haunted by drowning tragedy

Published Jan 14, 2008

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By Kamini Padayachee

While New Year's Day conjures up happy memories for most, one man continues to be haunted by thoughts of a drowning incident in which he was forced to make a harrowing choice.

Two weeks ago, Guy Mottram (41), of Joburg, bravely tried to save two men from drowning at Umdloti Beach, north of Durban. He managed to save Keegan Ramsaroop (20), but his uncle, Vicky Takoorpersadh (37), drowned.

Father-of-two Mottram said he dreams about the tragic events of that day.

"I am originally from Durban, so my family and I came to spend Christmas with family here. On New Year's Day I was alone at our rented apartment at Umdloti when I saw two men swimming out beyond the tidal pool. As I was a voluntary lifeguard in my younger days, I realised they were in trouble."

Without thinking, he ran to the beach and dived into the water.

"I swam out past the tidal pool and saw one man (Ramsaroop) and went towards him. I tried to keep him above water, because he was unconscious, and swim with my other hand.

"The current was too strong and we would both have drowned if I had tried to swim to shore. I managed to get us to a clump of rocks and then I saw a couple of big waves coming in, which I knew was our only chance of getting to the shore safely."

Before the waves hit them, he saw Takoorpersadh resurface and go back underwater.

"I saw his body about 10 metres away and was faced with the terrible decision who to take to shore first. But I made the choice to take the man I was holding (Ramsaroop) back first. Then the waves hit us and carried us to another set of rocks, and I managed to get us to the shore.

"I went back to search for the other man but it was too dark."

An emotional Mottram said while others consider him a hero, he doesn't feel he is.

"It was a knee-jerk reaction and I would do it again. I cannot feel happy about saving one man, because another man drowned. I constantly run through the events of that day and think about what I could have done differently. But at least I saved one life."

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