HARARE. — Kadoma-based truck driver Sirizani Butau has been rewarded with US$1,000 cash prize money and an ambassadorial role with TN Bakers, a leading confectionery firm.
Butau, whose age is yet to be confirmed, was one of the first motorists to arrive at the 242km peg along the Harare-Mutare highway where four people were killed when a Beta bus crashed into a fuel tanker and burst into flames just outside Mutare.
He turned into a lifesaving hero when he braved raging flames and pulled out eight people from the burning wreckage of the accident which took place at around 5.00pm.
But while many stood away from the dozens of passengers desperately crying for help even as others were taking photos and videos of the wreckage, Butau instantly placed his head on the grind by throwing himself into the fire to save lives.
He pulled out eight people who could possibly have been burnt to death, according to eyewitness. Images of Butau show him looking greasy, with burns on his legs and arms from the flames.
“The truck that was involved in the accident was being driven by my colleague and friend. So I rushed and found him still alive, so I tried to save him because I knew that with time the petrol would catch fire, so when I was trying to retrieve him, that is when it caught fire,” Butau said.
While some individuals whipped out their phones to capture the tragedy, he chose to look death in the eye. He rescued eight people from the growing inferno and suffered third-degree burns in the process. His images have since gone viral on Twitter, as he is being celebrated as a hero.
Writing on social media, Zimbabwean comedienne Madam Boss, real name Tarisai Cleopatra Chikocho announced the development while also wishing Batau a speedy recovery from the burns.
“Thank you The TN Baker For giving Mr Sirizani 1000Usd Hanzi thank you for helping indeed he is a hero.
“Ndazongo taurawo muku joker ndikati [i joked with TN Baker and said] Sir can you make him a brand ambassador guess what guys my Boss said yes yes yes.
“So we wish you speed recovery my brother. Basa rirohwe!”
While the rest of the passengers kicked emergency exit panels and escaped to safety, authorities say 54 of those escaping passengers were taken to Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital with injuries described as serious.
Madam Boss said her charity foundation will go to Mutare to help others who have been hospitalised. She also pledged US$500 cash donation to Butau and his family.
Many people have praised Butau with some already looking for his contacts so they may offer him some “presents” in appreciation of the sterling job he did on Christmas eve. Others have suggested that the State give him some official recognition of sorts.
The accident has been pinned on human error. In a statement on Christmas eve, police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the bus encroached onto the opposite lane resulting in the head-on collision with the tanker.
“There are reports that the bus driver had tried to avoid a drunken person who was along the road and thereby encroaching onto the opposite lane but we are still conducting investigations,” he said last night.