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Bartender Immediately Drops a Beer to Save Family Swept By Rogue Wave Into Rip Current


Tongai Matandirotya

An ordinary shift at the bar became an exercise in heroism for one bartender in South Africa recently.

Tongai Matandirotya, who works at Brass Bell Restaurant near Cape Town left behind any thoughts of his own safety—and of the drink he was pouring for a customer—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 in the fishing village of Kalk Bay. Several people were walking by the window of Brass Bells looking out to the water. Then the scene changed dramatically.

“I saw this wave come over the harbor and it covered the people, dragging them into the ocean. 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,” Matandirotya told News 24 Cape Town.

37-year-old 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.

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By now Matandirotya had dropped the drink he was pouring, taken off his belt and jumped into the water—followed by a tourist unnamed by the news reports.  By then the ferocity of the waves, even just a few meters from shore, had pulled Gardiner and Arya apart; he used his belt to rescue Arya who wasn’t able to stay afloat by herself.

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“I recently went to the restaurant to thank him,” Gardiner told local news. “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.”

Tongai noticed he had been badly scratched up by the concrete wall of the pier, but only after finishing his heroics, and reckoned the mostly-cosmetic damage wasn’t anything to worry about.

Brass Bell congratulated their man on Facebook, saying they were “so proud” of him, and appreciative of his heroism, with several commenters adding reminders to “tip him well.”

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