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Marcel Christian van Rossum (1966 - )

The Order of Mendi for Bravery in

Marcel Christian van Rossum (1966 - ) Awarded for:
Displaying an act of bravery and courage by putting his life at risk to save the lives of drowning children.

Profile of Marcel Christian van Rossum

On 28 December 2001, Marcel Christian van Rossum and his wife had just arrived at KwaZulu-Natal's St Lucia beach, looking forward to a rewarding holiday when they heard some pandemonium coming from a group of people congregated nearby. The Van Rossums went to investigate.

Upon their arrival at the scene, the Pretoria couple was met by a distraught and confused family. Jabulane Thela and his wife, together with a handful of equally scared onlookers, were watching helplessly as the rough sea current kept on hurling their two children, Sipho (16) and Sibongiseni (13), deeper and deeper into the ocean.

Neither their father nor their mother could swim, and by the time the Van Rossums understood what had happened, the two children were already beyond the breakers.

Marcel van Rossum dived into the sea and, all alone, started searching while the helpless and hopeless parents watched with trepidation and terror.

Jabulane Thela remembers watching 'this courageous man swimming deep into the sea'. The clock was ticking, and each second felt like an hour to him.

Van Rossum spotted the first child, Sipho, who according to his father was 'almost completely drowned'. Van Rossum embraced the boy and dragged him to shore.

While Van Rossum was busy helping with the resuscitation of the boy, other young people on surf boards shouted that they had just seen something in the water about 30 metres into the sea. Van Rossum left the resuscitation effort to somebody else, a certain Mr Alex Dalvao, and rushed to where he had been directed. By the time he came to the spot, the young girl had disappeared. Diving calmly, he came across the drowning girl under water. With a single-minded purpose, he brought the unconscious girl to the surface and dragged her to shore where she was resuscitated.

Netcare 911, which had been called when this near-tragedy began, arrived and took the children to the nearby Bay Hospital's intensive care unit.

Upon arrival at the hospital, the scared parents were told their offspring were 'in a very serious condition' as they were both in a coma. Both developed pneumonia. With each day that went by, their parents were beginning to lose hope.

Then, 72 hours later, good news came. Both Sipho and Sibongiseni had miraculously recovered. Marcel Christian van Rossum's help apparently arrived just in time to save the two children's lives. But the children's lives were not the only thing Van Rossum apparently saved. In retrospect, the policeman father believes, Van Rossum probably saved the two parents from a life of regret they may have had to live with for the rest of their lives - of a family holiday gone terribly wrong.

Marcel Christian van Rossum put his life in clear and present danger in the turbulent ocean waters with the sole purpose of saving the lives of two helpless children. Clearly, without his help the two children would have drowned. He displayed courage rarely seen during such dangerous times when the potential danger of the rescue mission is perceptibly forbidding.