Neighbour rescues teen from inferno

Hendrick Mphande

IT may not have been a traditional fairytale ending, but a teenage girl was able to thank her hero yesterday – a neighbour who pulled her from her burning Port Elizabeth house.

Michelle Basson, 17, could have died in the fire which gutted her family’s Shelly Crescent, Kensington, home on Monday had it not been for the quick action of Stanley Rockman.

Only the family Bible survived the blaze. Rockman rushed into the blazing house to rescue Michelle, who was sleeping.

“I am indebted to him. I never imagined he would be the one to rescue me from the fire. Stanley always likes to make jokes and it’s unbelievable that he is the hero,” Michelle said.

But Rockman downplayed his heroic actions.

It is believed that the fire started when an electrical box caught alight just after 9pm on Monday.

Michelle’s father Michael, his wife Nicoleen, and their two daughters – Michelle and Mischa, both 4 – had already gone to bed when the fire started.

“Later that night, I was awoken only to find a huge fire. I quickly grabbed the keys and my four- year-old daughters. By this time, the house was already on fire,” Michael said.

Their neighbour, Imelda Coetzee, was awake and went outside to check what was happening after her lights went out. “I realised that there were lights in the street and surrounding houses, but when I went to investigate outside I saw that the house next door was on fire.”

Coetzee went to knock on the Bassons’ door, but there was no response.

“I then took a stone and threw it against their window. The wife, followed by her husband, then came out. The fire had already spread throughout the house,” Coetzee said.

Rockman, who lives a few doors away, heard the commotion and came out to check. By the time he arrived at the house, only Michelle was still inside.

“I then heard screams for help. My friend and I decided to go inside the house. We first had to remove couches which were standing in our way. Black smoke blinded us,” he said.

“The entire ceiling was on fire and I did not see where she [Michelle] was because it was dark. I simply stretched my hand and grabbed her after I heard her make a noise.”

Michael said the house had been destroyed and estimated damage to be R800000. He said it was a miracle that the Bible – which was on top of the electrical box – had not been that badly damaged.

The family is living with their neighbours until alternative accommodation can be arranged. Disaster management officials have offered to assist them with food and blankets.

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