'Guardian angel' tells of dramatic baby rescue
Namibian woman who saved a baby's life after a horrific car accident says she thought of her kids
She rocked the baby on her lap, pleading with God to spare his life and not to claim one who has only spent eight months on this earth.
In between her prayers she soothed the crying baby, until his sobs started subsiding and only a dry heave escaped every so often.
Tulonga Neputa, 35, a mother of two, now jokes she has a third son after rescuing eight-month-old Dex Heger after he was flung from the bakkie he was travelling in with his grandfather.
Sadly, his grandfather, Frank Heger, died at the scene, along with the four occupants of the second car involved in the collision last week Thursday on the road between Windhoek and Okahandja in Namibia.
A video of Neputa running to the bakkie, and coming back with the baby in one hand and baby bag in the other, has since been widely shared, with emotional messages of thanks pouring in for her selfless deed.Although she appreciates the messages, no thankfulness can match that of Neputa, who on Tuesday finally got to meet little Dex and his family again.
“I was so worried about that boy. When I had to hand him over to the paramedics at the accident scene, I prayed and prayed he would be okay, because I did not know if his parents were killed in the accident.
“When he saw me today (Tuesday) he put out his hands so I could pick him up. Praise God, I was so happy to hold that boy,” she said.
They spoke for hours, Neputa says, and she will go back often to visit.
Neputa was travelling with colleagues to Walvis Bay last week when they came upon the accident.
“You could see it had just happened, and a couple of other cars also stopped. We saw a small child lying next to an Amarok double-cab, and there was smoke coming from the vehicle.”She started running back to where the baby lay – she was “panicking and praying”.
They saw the older man still in the driver’s seat, and one of the other motorists managed to speak a couple of words to him before he died.
“I just thought I had to get the baby away from the bakkie as soon as possible. I told him over and over: ‘Don’t cry baby, everything will be fine.’ I was so fearful for the man’s sake.”
She was thinking of her own two boys, Tangi, 5, and Ombili, 4, all the time, she remembers.
“So I was just doing what any mother would do.
“Back at the kombi, I checked if Dex had any other injuries, because he was bleeding from the mouth and nose. One of the other motorists said it looked as if his arm was broken, and we had to handle him very carefully.”
She held him until the police, an ambulance and paramedics arrived at the scene.
After handing the baby over to the paramedics, Neputa and her colleagues continued with their journey.But not before another prayer: “God, you don’t take this one. You cannot claim this one.”
It was only later that night, when they reached Walvis Bay, that the shock hit.
“The dam just burst; I saw again the scene. It was horrific, with body parts everywhere. I heard later the grandpa stayed on a farm near Okahandja.”
No funeral arrangements have yet been finalised, and the family has asked for time to mourn their loss and take care of arrangements.
Nadja Heger, the little boy’s mother, has posted her thanks online, saying Dex would now forever have a guardian angel watching over him.
“Our little baby boy is ok! It’s beyond our understanding how he survived this horrific accident! It’s a miracle,” her post read.
“We know that Opa Frank did everything in his power to keep his beloved Dexi safe. The 2 of them had a special bond from Day 1. Opa was looking forward to spend time with his grandson.
“To some amazing people along this sad journey, we will thank you personally.“To the woman who saved our baby boy from the car, we will for sure get in touch with you that Dexi can hug you again!”
Neputa, a senior internal auditor at the Road Funds Administration in Namibia, has since been awarded the SOE Forum Chairman’s Award, which is usually conferred on an employee working at any of the parastatals for outstanding service. The award has also been renamed after her.
The Ministry of Land Reform in Namibia said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened to learn of the untimely passing of a Namibian icon, Mr Frank Heger, who served on the Land Reform Advisory Commission of the Ministry since 1st of April 2013 until the time of his passing. His knowledge and noble input made a significant impact in the Land Reform programme and it will be remembered in the Ministry with gratitude.”