Jeandré Potgieter, from Elspark congregation in Germiston, has become a local hero after he scaled a two-metre gate to rescue a woman from a burning house. He was also named Lead SA’s Gauteng Youth Hero for the month of May.
The 15 year-old, who suffers from asthma, said he was not scared when he ran into the burning house on Saturday, 16 May 2015. “It was adrenaline that took over me as I didn’t want the lady to die. But I can only thank God that he protected me and kept his hand over me.”
Jeandré’s grandfather, Deacon Corrie Potgieter, and his uncle, Cornél, are members of the Elspark community policing forum (CFP). When they heard the emergency call about the fire, the three raced to the house.
“We were the first members of the CPF to respond and arrive on the scene. When we arrived, a lady came running towards us shouting that the resident of the house was still inside. My grandfather and uncle tried to open the gate but at that stage as it was locked.”
Jeandré says he realised it was now or never and jumped over the precast walling. “I first tried to go through the front door but the flames were blazing and it was too hot for me to enter. I then saw a side gate and ran around the house to try and enter through the back.”
The kitchen door was open, he continued, and he could see the owner of the house, a widow in her 40s, standing in her kitchen. “There were flames around her, so I ran in and just dragged her out. By then the other people arrived on the scene. Some of them came to help me as we exited the kitchen. With the grace of God the kitchen roof collapsed just as we got outside.”
The fire spread quickly through the house, with not much remaining apart from the walls and a few scorched onions, said Jeandré, adding that both him and the lady, a widow in her 40s, were taken to hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation. “After receiving hospital treatment, we went back to the house and the lady’s son thanked me for saving his mother; he was very grateful.”
Following the incident, Jeandré has received much attention in local media. His mother, Vanessa Potgieter said he has been over whelmed with all of the attention as he is a shy child. It was never about the media attention, she said, it was just an act of saving a life.
“Jeandré is a very humble child. He is very caring and selfless. He is always willing to help others and if the opportunity arises he goes with my father to assist with the local CPF. We are fortunate to be living with my parents.”
Vanessa said even if a call comes in for help at midnight, Jeandré will be the first to wake up, ready to help. “He has a passion to work with people. As a single mother I realised that having such a child made the journey not only rewarding but made me thank the Lord even more for blessing me with such a courageous young man. I pray that he will be an example for his siblings and other children. I am truly blessed.”
She said when she received the call to go to the house; she was not sure whether to scold her son for not thinking about his own life or thank him for what he did. “In the end I can only applaud his act as that is the way he was taught. Never ever put your own needs first. Always think of others and what they need.”
After Jeandré was discharged from hospital on the same day of the fire, he started, with the help of his uncle, that same night, asking residents to donate clothes as the family had lost everything in the fire. “When he talks about what that day, he talks about it with tears in his eyes. The day he received his Lead SA certificate was one of the proudest days of his life,” said Vanessa.
She added: “We were raised to know that we need to honour God and thank him for all our blessings. I can only encourage my son to grow up in the work of the Lord. He was confirmed this year and I can only thank his leader for laying a solid foundation in him.”
Singing his grandson’s praises, Corrie said: “Jeandré has from a very young age always helped and attended church functions with me as I help with the parking at the major events. He is always eager to learn the work and I pray that one day he may be a servant for our father.”
* Article originally appeared on the New Apostolic Church-South East Africa website
* Pictures by Beeld and Lead SA