Beach hol­i­day night­mare

UVONGO: Life­guard blamed for skate­board in­jury to Joburg de­signer

Weekend Witness - - News - TR­ISH BEAVER

A CARE­FREE hol­i­day at the beach al­most turned into tragedy for a beach-goer from Jo­han­nes­burg when a skate­board plum­meted off a nearby life­guard tower and split open her scalp.

Fur­ni­ture de­signer Monique van Zyl (24) was hol­i­day­ing at Uvongo with her fam­ily on Hu­man Rights Day, March 21, rest­ing in the shade be­neath the life­guard tower, when she suf­fered a painful blow to the head.

A foun­tain of blood poured over her face. The pain was so se­vere she al­most passed out.

She re­alised that a heavy skate­board had hit her on the head af­ter it had slipped off the edge of the tower.

She went up the steps to the life­guard tower to seek help and one of the shocked life­guards ad­mit­ted they had been play­ing around with the skate­board, when it flipped over the edge.

Van Zyl said: “I then re­alised the sever­ity of what had hap­pened, know­ing this heavy ob­ject had plum­meted a few storeys onto my head.

“One of the life­guards sud­denly came and sprayed my face with some un­known sub­stance, prob­a­bly Det­tol, which caused ir­ri­ta­tion to my eyes, nose and throat. But he com­pletely missed the wounded area on my skull.”

She was taken to the ca­su­alty sec­tion of a hospi­tal in Mar­gate with a po­lice es­cort. She waited for two hours while a doc­tor was paged. He shaved her head and gave her 20 stitches as her scalp had been sep­a­rated from her skull. She un­der­went a CT scan to check for brain dam­age and was given a neck brace.

She is fu­ri­ous at the in­ci­dent and the fact that the life­guards be­haved ir­re­spon­si­bly and had no idea how to han­dle an emer­gency.

“Th­ese so-called life­guards are sup­posed to be re­spon­si­ble for sav­ing peo­ple’s lives and they have no clue how to be­have.”

A life­guard re­port­edly re­ceived a pre­vi­ous warn­ing about tak­ing the skate­board up to the tower. Van Zyl said the life­guards on duty were very young; the old­est was only 20.

She is now half-bald and has thick stitches cross­ing her scalp in a grue­some line.

“I am not a vain per­son but I feel really ugly. Only the day be­fore I was tan­ning on the beach, feel­ing really good.”

Van Zyl’s fam­ily con­tacted the life­guards’ man­ager and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, but have re­ceived no re­sponse.

The next day, the Van Zyl fam­ily went back to the scene to get an­swers and dis­cov­ered that the life­guards, who were still us­ing the skate­board, had had no emer­gency med­i­cal train­ing.

The in­ci­dent had not been re­ported to any­one in man­age­ment and no dis­ci­plinary ac­tion had been taken against the life­guard who was re­spon­si­ble.

Van Zyl said: “My hol­i­day was ru­ined and I am em­bar­rassed by the way I look, but it could have been worse; I could have lost my life. I want to take le­gal ac­tion so they can take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­tions.”

She said the fam­ily had to pay for an­other week at the coast as she couldn’t travel home in that con­di­tion. The bills for her med­i­cal costs are still rolling in.

“I’m still strug­gling to get over this. I’m try­ing to fo­cus on the fact that it could have been far worse and I am hav­ing coun­selling. You hear about th­ese crazy ac­ci­dents and never think they could hap­pen to you.”

Week­end Wit­ness called Leon Gar­bade, the op­er­a­tions man­ager of the Tower 13 life­guards.

He said the in­ci­dent was highly re­gret­table. “I was ex­tremely dis­tressed to hear about what had hap­pened and we are cur­rently in a dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dure with the life­guard who was re­spon­si­ble for the in­ci­dent.

“He was off-duty at the time of the in­ci­dent and he should not have been on the tower with the skate­board. He is be­ing charged with gross mis­con­duct and it is quite likely he will be re­lieved of his du­ties.” • tr­ish.beaver@wit­


A fall­ing skate­board gashed the head of Monique van Zyl (top). She needed 20 stitches (right). A life­guard at Uvongo has been blamed for her in­jury.

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