Durban - A Bluff great-grandmother, who’d fought her heart out to get out of her rapidly submerging car in Tuesday’s floods, yelled at two men standing close by to stop taking photographs and come to her rescue.
This after she had struggled on to the roof of the car as waves of water crashed against the vehicle.
Muriel Commins, 72, was trapped in her vehicle in one of the worst hit areas on the corner of Edwin Swales Drive and Titren Road in Rossburgh.
Commins said she had pleaded with God for her life, thinking it was almost over, as she frantically tried to smash the driver’s window open to escape a watery grave. If it had not been for her husband having removed the passenger seat of their 2001 Peugeot 206 to repair it she wouldn’t have been able to stand up in the vehicle to breathe, she said.
Commins took a wrong turn that kept her from the worst of the flood on Edwin Swales Drive but she got caught in rushing flood waters in Titren Road.
Commins said she left Glenwood under clear skies at 10am but the rain started pelting down as she drove along Sydney Road.
“It started hailing and I thought I would get shelter at Southway Mall but cars were doing U-turns at Titren Road and I thought ‘I shouldn’t go up there’ but then decided I could get through,’ Commins said.
But her engine cut out in water “like a pond” just up to the level of her vehicle’s wheels.
“Within 15 minutes water was coming in through the doors and every time the wind blew it blew a wave like the sea over the windscreen and I knew I was in big trouble. I really thought it was my last day,” Commins said.
In chest high water she pulled out the headrest of the driver’s seat and began to beat the window with its steel pins, but it refused to budge. She then dived under water to look for a spanner in the hatchback boot behind the back seats but it was inaccessible under the spare wheel. Water was rising to her chin.
“I said, God I’m sorry, I am so bad please help me to get out, and then I realised he had given me a brain and he was helping me,” she said.
Commins eventually lodged one of the steel pins of the headrest into the slightly open window and pulled it towards her, shattering the window.
“It was like the sea with waves lapping at the windows. I stood on the door’s internal armrest and it broke. I held on to the outside mirror and turned around and managed to pull myself on to the roof and then I was sliding off the roof because it was raining so hard,” Commins said.
“There were two guys just watching and taking photographs or videos and I shouted to them to stop taking pictures and help me,” Commins said.
She instructed them to get a tow rope and ask a nearby truck to help.
“They climbed onto the truck and threw the rope to me. I tied it around my waist and they pulled me out. I’m lucky to be alive. I think if my husband hadn’t taken that seat out I don’t know if I would be alive,” Commins said.
Commins said she was most grateful to her rescuers and the truck driver who took her to the Engen Southway Convenience Centre where owner, Micheal Davids helped her.
“He gave me a spare uniform to wear. He was a very helpful man and he was very good to another lady who had been partially submerged,” she said.
Davids, who had opened his doors to help the public, said Commins looked like she had hypothermia when she arrived.
“She looked like she only had a couple of minutes to live and the only thing I had was staff uniforms. I assisted a few women and let them dry down. It was the least I could do and the humane thing,” he said.