Cop walks 1.5km after being shot
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Warrant officer Jannie van der Westhuizen remains in a stable but critical condition in the intensive care unit of a Durban hospital after being shot by poachers and his family have expressed thanks after a public outpouring of support for the injured officer.
Van der Westhuizen was lauded this week for his dedication to duty after chasing poachers and, when shot through the jaw and mouth, he walked 1.5km through the bush in the extreme heat to get help.
Van der Westhuizen was part of the police team sent to the search and rescue operation at Jozini Dam in northern Zululand after the luxury houseboat, Shayamanzi, caught fire last weekend. The tragedy claimed two lives, Shayamanzi chef Chilizane Phiri, 51, and German tourist Michael Mirschel, 64, with one crew member, Maxwell Nyawo, 36, reported missing.
On Monday, the police team were searching for Nyawo when poachers were spotted on the shore of the lake.
Van der Westhuizen’s mother-in-law, Gerda Jansen, said yesterday that police were giving chase through the bush when the poachers opened fire on them and Van der Westhuizen was shot through his jawbone. The bullet exiting out of his mouth.
With help from his colleagues, he applied pressure with a towel held to his face with blood dripping down his throat, as the team walked back through the dense bush for 1.5km to the boat.
He was airlifted to the Bay Hospital in Richards Bay before being transported to a hospital in Durban.
Jansen said: “He is still in ICU under sedation and on a ventilator, but he is stable and we are positive.”
He cannot undergo the necessary surgery until the swelling has subsided.
Earlier this week, the family had appealed for help with regard to accommodation and travel expenses for the officer’s wife, Vera, to visit her husband while he’s in hospital. Within a few days, the family were given the use of a flat during the months ahead and all travel expenses have been covered.
“We are so grateful and thankful for all the help we have received, some of which came from people we don’t even know,” said Jansen yesterday.
A report in the Zululand Observer on the shooting included a comment from Van der Westhuizen’s commanding officer, Lt Col Kobus Oliver, who described the injured officer as “tough as nails”.
“Jannie is a highly dedicated and brave policeman and you won’t find a better diver or a fitter person.
“He is as tough as nails, even after that agonising walk back through the bush, I understand that his heart rate was only slightly elevated,” said Olivier.
On Wednesday, Nyawo was still missing with the search by police and South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) on-going.
Jozini Municipality Disaster, Fire and Rescue manager Ayanda Gumede said the search for Nyawo was still continuing, but at this stage they regarded the search as a recovery.
The Independent on Saturday