Tongai Matandirotya, a bartender turned hero, who works at Brass Bell Restaurant near Cape Town South Africa left behind any thoughts of his own safety to dive into the cold Atlantic ocean to rescue a mother and daughter swept off the pier by a rogue wave. It was a relatively calm day and several people were walking by the window of Brass Bells looking out to the water when a huge wave came over the harbor and pulled them into the ocean.
Clair Gardiner and her 8-year-old daughter Arya van Hilten were two of the people swept away. Gardiner knew they were being pulled into the water as soon as the wave rushed over them, and she managed to wrap her arms around little Arya. Matandirotya saw it happen and dropped the drink he was pouring, ran outside and dove into the cold Atlantic Ocean.
The ferocity of the waves had pulled Gardiner and Arya apart. Matandirotya used his belt to rescue Arya who wasn’t able to stay afloat by herself. Gardiner said she went back to the restaurant to thank him “I didn’t know who saved us but my daughter recognized him immediately, and we all embraced each other. We are so thankful to Tongai and the tourist man who risked their lives to save ours; we’ll forever be grateful to them.”
Matandirotya, along with another man, also saved Angela Campbell, 75, who was also swept away that day while taking a stroll with her family. “I looked around and realized I was in the water. I panicked! Eventually, I managed to turn over, but I then started sinking. I remember talking to myself, saying ‘God make it quick, I’m scared’. Campbell said that besides her life being saved, she was more thankful that her grandson was not in the buggy that she was pushing when the wave hit her.
Matandirotya told news outlets he dove in because he saw a child (Aryna) go in and he has a very soft spot for kids and his instinct to help just kicked in. Brass Bell restaurant spokesperson Ethan Govender said the staff and management team were impressed by Matandirotya’s bravery. “We applaud him for his braveness in jumping into action to save those that fell into the ocean. Tongai is a wonderful, loveable, fun human being. His character speaks volumes, and we are immensely proud of the risk he took in saving lives.”