Tears as crash victim thanks her rescuing angel

Charlie Gillett stayed with Rochelle Velkers, 26, while she was trapped in her car under a truck in Diaz Road after the truck rolled down Potgieter Street in Parsons Hill, Port Elizabeth, on Tuesday
Charlie Gillett stayed with Rochelle Velkers, 26, while she was trapped in her car under a truck in Diaz Road after the truck rolled down Potgieter Street in Parsons Hill, Port Elizabeth, on Tuesday
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Within minutes of a traumatic crash on Tuesday afternoon, Parsons Hill Primary School governing body chair Charlie Gillett, 71, and principal Clinton Saddler arrived to help.

Gillett and Saddler went on Wednesday morning to the hospital to meet the driver of the Opel which was pinned underneath a truck, Rochelle Velkers, 26, and see how she was recovering.

 An emotional Velkers began to cry.

“Thank you, Charlie, Thank you. You are my angel,” she said.

Velkers was injured when the truck parked outside the school in Potgieter Street, Port Elizabeth, rolled down the hill, across Diaz Road and down a one-way embankment — landing on passing Velkers’s Opel.

Gillett sprang into action after hearing news of the crash and rushed to the scene.

“I was in the school at the time and the workers were rushing to the accident,” he said.

“I rushed with them and saw the car under the truck. Initially, I thought it could have been an accident involving some of our kids” he said.

“When I got there I jumped down from the wall and climbed underneath the truck. At that stage, we all thought there could also be a child inside the vehicle.

“I saw a hand and leg sticking out and started chatting with the driver of the car. She was very disoriented and I just kept telling her I am not leaving and we are going to get her out. I knew I had to keep her awake, every time I felt her dozing off I would squeeze her hand and carry on talking to her.”

He said he had spent about 45 minutes holding Velkers’s hand while lying underneath the truck.

“All that was going through my mind was that I must help this woman.

“I did not think about the truck landing on me or anything.

“The car was badly crushed. I could not see her face or anything.

“The fact she survived with fairly minor injuries is nothing short of amazing.

“She is so lucky to be alive, I was so worried about her.”

While she was being loaded into the ambulance, he kept speaking to her.

“She kept saying thank you, thank you.

“Initially, she said that she could not see but then her vision came back.

“I just kept telling her that it was going to be fine.

“At that stage, when I was talking to her she could not remember her surname, her phone number and so on.”

Asked what had gone through his mind while lying under the truck, he said: “You think of the strangest things.

“I was looking around to see if the diesel was spilling out of the truck and if it might explode.

“All I thought was that I had money in my pocket that I wanted to give to a friend.

“If this truck blows up how would he get his money,” he said with a smile.

Saddler said he had been worried the truck would fall while the two were under it.

“We were so worried it would drop. I checked with the driver and luckily the truck was not loaded.

“Everyone kept telling Charlie to get out, but he refused.

“There was no way he was going to leave her. He kept telling her that he was going nowhere.”

 

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