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Bartender Jumps Into Action When Rogue Wave Sweeps Tourists Away.

No matter how beautiful the weather may be, the ocean can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.

South African local Tongai Matandirotya has worked as a bartender at the Brass Bell Kalk Bay restaurant for the past 8 years. Coworkers describe him as a “wonderful, loveable, fun human being.” After watching him vault into action to save lives after a freak accident on the shore, they’re adding another description to his character: Heroic.

Tongai was tending the bar one afternoon on a beautiful day with crystal-clear blue skies and calm seas. Tourists who had finished their lunch at the restaurant were strolling along the water’s edge, taking in the stunning ocean and mountain views, when suddenly a “wall of water” rose up and carried dozens of people out to sea.

“I saw this wave come over the harbour and it covered the people, dragging them into the ocean,” Tongai recalled. “I immediately ran outside, undressed myself, and dived into the water because I saw a child go in as well. I have a very soft spot for kids, and my instinct just kicked in to see if I could help.”

There was a powerful riptide at play, making it difficult for the shocked victims to get back to shore. Tongai had had the foresight to grab his belt as he took off his pants. He used the leather strap to pull people from the water, yelling for help as he worked.

One of the people Tongai rescued was Clair Gardiner and her 8-year-old daughter, Arya van Hilten. They were admiring the seals on the coast when the wave hit.

“As we walked, a massive rogue wave knocked us into the harbour,” she described. “Some of the people weren’t able to swim. It was hectic. When you’re in the moment, it’s much more dramatic. All I remember was grabbing my kid when I knew we would go over into the sea. I wrapped my arms around her and managed to get us safely away from the heavy waves.”

Moments later, Arya began to slip away in the current. Clair screamed for help, and the next thing she knew Tongai and another tourist man who’d jumped in to help were in the water next to her. Tongai grabbed Arya and shoved her onto the rocky shore. Clair scrambled up behind them, exhausted.

“I recently went to the restaurant to thank him,” she said. “My daughter recognised 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.”

Thanks to Tongai and other helpers, no one lost their lives that day! Tongai is now being hailed a hero and praised for leaping into action in spite of the danger to himself.

Share this story to celebrate this selfless act of heroism.

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