A Dramatic Rescue
By Awake! correspondent in BENIN
“THOSE three men are alive only because Jehovah’s Witnesses saved them!” That was the news that spread like wildfire throughout the city of Calavi, in the West African country of Benin, on Wednesday, April 19, 2000. Who were the three men, and how were Jehovah’s Witnesses involved in their rescue?
About 6:30 a.m., Philippe Elegbe and Roger Kounougbe were getting ready to work on the assembly grounds of Jehovah’s Witnesses located adjacent to the Benin branch office of the Watch Tower Society. That evening hundreds were to gather there for the annual Memorial of the death of Jesus Christ. * Suddenly, a deafening crash shattered the peaceful morning calm. At once, Philippe and Roger realized that an accident had taken place on the highway.
Seconds later they heard a man scream: “My three apprentices are buried under the cement bags!” Philippe and Roger ran to the highway. There they saw a 20-ton truck lying on its side. Dozens of bags filled with cement had avalanched off the truck.
Josué Didolanvi, also a worker at the assembly grounds, was already on the scene, pulling a man out from between the cab of the truck and the cement bags. The driver, who had pulled himself out of the cab, was in a state of shock. Yet, he mustered the strength to cry out: “There are still two people under the sacks of cement!” Some onlookers began removing the sacks, but they soon gave up because of the tremendous heat. The cement had just come out of the manufacturer’s ovens!
To the Rescue
Philippe, Roger, and Josué began digging into the mountain of cement sacks, removing them one at a time. Their hands were racked with pain because of the heat and weight of the 110-pound [50 kg] sacks. Making matters worse, cement was spewing out of broken bags, blistering their fingers and making breathing difficult. “My hands were burning, especially my fingers,” Josué later said. “But I kept thinking that there might still be a chance to save whoever was under there.”
After moving nearly 40 sacks, the trio caught sight of a straw mat. Much to their surprise, they found the two men there—right under the mat. They were alive! When the accident occurred, these men were in the back of the truck sleeping on the mat that covered the bags of cement. When they tumbled from the truck, the mat fell on them, protecting them from the burning heat of the cement sacks that buried them.
During and after the rescue, a considerable crowd of onlookers gathered. All marveled that Philippe, Roger, and Josué had been able to remove a two-ton mountain so quickly and under such adverse conditions. They were also impressed that these three men would go to such lengths to help people that they did not even know. Soon everyone in Calavi seemed to know about their heroic efforts.
[Picture on page 31]
Roger holding the straw mat after the rescue