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Nightmare as Randburg man spends 20 hours stuck on a tree in the middle of flooded Vaal river

A man spent the whole night perched atop a tree in the middle of the flooded Vaal river. 

Dirk Engelbrecht may count himself lucky because he could have fallen into the raging fast flowing river. The water was travelling at over 100km/h.

Engelbrecht collided with a tree in front of the island and bruised his ribs in the process.

“I went underneath the kayak and then I tried to grip branches to keep me out the other rapids. I only caught on to a tree 15m further.”

He had to move from branches because the first branch was not strong enough to hold him.

“I landed on a fork and I stood on it for 19 and a half hours,” he said.

“I am standing on a tree and 400m in every direction is water,” Engelbrecht added.

Engelbrecht balanced with one foot on a 15cm by 15cm diameter branch, less than a metre above water.

“For 19 and a half hours I watched water moving at what looked like a 100 and something kilometres per hour. It was just screaming past nonstop,” he said.

Engelbrecht described that everything from how to survive to dying went through his mind at different times.

He said he was worried about his colleagues, the weather and whether more sluices would be opened making the water level rise.

“I couldn’t sleep, if I did I would fall into the rapids. If you sleep you are dead,” he said.

He said it felt impossible to stay awake after standing for about six hours.

“The last six hours I had to talk to keep myself awake. I noticed talking kept me awake. It started by talking out loud about what went on in my head,” he said.

Engelbrecht said it helped to keep himself uncomfortable in order to stay awake.

“I also didn’t drink water for as long as I could and also not urinate to keep my body heat,” he explained.

Engelbrecht said at times he thought he was going to die.


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Dirk Engelbrecht Engelbrecht Randburg


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