Toddler’s dice with death on highway

JOYOUS REUNION: Young mother Lizeka Magwabi was overjoyed to be reunited with her son Awonke, 2, after his spine-chilling highway adventure. While she thought he was with his dad, the boy went walkabout in the traffic. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
JOYOUS REUNION: Young mother Lizeka Magwabi was overjoyed to be reunited with her son Awonke, 2, after his spine-chilling highway adventure. While she thought he was with his dad, the boy went walkabout in the traffic. Picture: EUGENE COETZEE

Horrified motorist whisks little boy from N2 as trucks and cars swerve around him

A GOOD Samaritan motorist has described the terrifying moments as she went to the rescue of a lost toddler who had wandered into the middle of the busy N2 and narrowly escaped death as he tottered caught up in whizzing traffic.

Two-year-old Awonke Magwabi was whisked up by driver Janet van Huyssteen, who had spotted him dodging cars near Nanaga, and taken to a place of safety before he was joyfully reunited with his distraught mother yesterday.

A visibly relieved Lizeka Magwabi, 27, who lives about 500m from the N2, described the previous 24 hours as very frightening and life-altering after her little boy went missing. Unbeknown to his parents, he had been found running in the middle of the N2 about 10km from the Nanaga Farm Stall at about 9am on Thursday.

The rescue of the child sparked a massive search of the Nanaga area by police and civilians for his parents, while appeals and a photograph were also posted on social media. With her son being returned to her, his young mother broke down in tears, thanking police officials who had reunited them.

Shortly after news of the toddler running on the N2 broke on The Herald Live website and Facebook page, farmers and residents in the greater Nanaga area formed a search party to locate Awonke’s parents.

Passing motorist Van Huyssteen, who had seen Awonke dodging oncoming cars, pulled off onto the verge when she spotted him. Van Huyssteen, who lives in East London and was travelling to Port Elizabeth from Grahamstown, said no other motorists had stopped – most had simply swerve around him swerved around the toddler and continued driving.

“He was just running in the traffic. I was going about 120km/h and managed to slow down and avoid hitting him – I got a very big fright. I pulled over onto the verge a few metres after passing him while looking in my rear-view mirror to see if his family or someone was coming to fetch him. “There was bush everywhere and no sign of any houses nearb y, ” she said.

“At that point I was very hesitant to get out of the car as it could have been a setup for a hijacking. When I realised no one was coming to fetch him, I turned the car around and stopped next to him. As soon as he saw the car stop he came running straight towards us with his arms open, crying hysterically.”

Fearing a hijacking trap, Van Huyssteen told her daughter who was with her to open the door and grab the child. “As soon as we picked him up he stopped crying. I was just so worried for his life. Trucks and cars were swerving all over the road and he was just running,” she said. “I spent some time driving slowly looking for any houses but couldn’t see any.

I then phoned around and was told to take him to the police station.” Minutes after being reunited with Awonke yesterday morning, a teary-eyed Magwabi said she had only realised Awonke was missing when her husband, who works as a labourer on a nearby farm, returned home at about 5pm on Thursday. “Before he left for work I went to the bathroom.

When I came out he was gone with Awonke. I just assumed they had left together and Awonke was going with him to work as they were going to another farm to fetch a goat,”Magwabi said. “When he came home I asked where Awonke was and he did not know. I felt my heart jump a beat.” In a panic, the parents ran to neighbouring farms and nearby residents, looking for Awonke. “When we couldn’t find him we went to the police station.”

Kinklebos Police Station Constable Siseko Solwandle said the distraught parents had arrived shortly before 6pm. By that stage Aw o n k e ’s picture had already been circulated to farmers, residents and neighbouring police stations. “We had been searching high and low for the parents. They then walked into the police station asking if we had their child. At that stage we were preparing to call in more vehicles. “The police station phone also didn’t stop ringing, with people just wanting to help.

We are just really glad this story has a happy ending.” By 8am yesterday, Solwandle had driven the child’s mother to Mount Road Police Station, where Awonke was waiting. Awonke spent Thursday night at Mount Pleasant-based Hannah’s Arms, a non-profit place of safety.

Hannah’s Arms house mother Esme Zwennis described Awonke as a great child. “He is a delightful and happy little boy. He got on fantastically with my boys who are about the same age. He was not distressed at all and was having a blast of a time,” she said. “He ate very well and slept extremely well. “He was very brave and so relaxed.

There was a language barrier as he speaks Xhosa and is only two years old. But he still managed to talk the hind leg off a donkey.” “This type of case is very unusual and it is not often the parents are located so quickly. When his mother arrived he was even more happy and ran up to her.” Missing persons detective Warrant Officer Perrihian Fortuin said since Awonke was found he had been fielding phone calls. “There were people from all over calling me, wanting to help.

A couple of people from Cape Town phoned and even wanted to drive to Port Elizabeth to assist,” he said. “Residents and farmers in the Nanaga area really pulled together and went out of their way. They were arranging a massive search party to work into the night shortly before the parents were located.”

Fortuin added some residents near Nanaga had been going from farm to farm with a picture of Awonke, to see if farm workers knew who the parents were. “I am just so relieved for the child and the parents. I wish all my cases ended like this.” When Awonke arrived at the police station, Fortuin found toys for him to play with.

“We also managed to find some nice clean clothes for him and give him a nice bath. You can see he is a well-looked-after child so I don’t think there is any intentional neglect,” he added. Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said it was encouraging to see the community and police pulling together.

“This cooperation and banding together by residents and police in a time of need is really something that everyone can be proud of,” she said. “We have to thank the good Samaritan who saved Awonke while other motorists just passed by. She is an example to all of us.” 

This story appeared in Weekend Post on Saturday, 12 December, 2015 e-Edition

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