'How I stopped runaway truck'
Motorists and pedestrians at a busy intersection in Pinetown, west of Durban, watched in awe last week as a 32-year-old safety officer steered a runaway truck away from oncoming traffic.
"It was like he was Denzel Washington or Keanu Reeves in an action movie," motorist Jeanelle Pillay said.
Mark Basson, a former firefighter and paramedic, had stopped at the Crompton Road and Old Main Road intersection to help the driver of a truck that was being stoned by striking truck drivers.
But he ended up saving not only the life of the driver but also of motorists and pedestrians.
He said his instincts as a firefighter and paramedic had kicked in.
"I was travelling along the road with my wife in the car behind me. I immediately noticed that a Simba truck was being stoned in front of me. I pulled over to the side of the road and signalled to my wife to carry on so that she would be out of harm's way," Basson said yesterday.
When he got to the driver's side of the truck, Basson realised the man had been stoned and assaulted by striking workers.
"The truck had hit a bakkie. The driver was unconscious and I realised that his foot was still on the accelerator pedal. I mounted the side of the truck and, through the window, with the driver slumped over the steering wheel, I tried to control the vehicle.
"I realised that, once the bakkie was free, the truck was going to move into oncoming traffic. I tried to reach over to the handbrake but I could not reach it because the driver was in the way," he said.
The runaway truck started rolling towards oncoming traffic.
"People started jumping out of the way as I steered the vehicle. I knew I had to steer clear of oncoming traffic or there would be many injuries and possibly fatalities."
Hanging onto the side of the truck, Basson managed to make a wide turn to take the vehicle onto a large grassy area.
"The vehicle hit a tree and came to a stop," he said.
Basson then called emergency services and tried to treat the driver.
"Once the paramedics arrived, the driver was taken to hospital," he said.
Basson tracked the injured truck driver to St Augustine's Hospital.
"I learned that his name was P Govender. I was told that he had had brain surgery because the assault had pushed a piece of bone into his brain," he said.
Expecting the worst, Basson went to the ICU to find that Govender was awake.
"He thanked me for saving his life. He was shocked and very concerned about his assistant, a young lady.
"I reassured him that she had jumped out of the vehicle when the stoning started and was not harmed," Basson said.