It was late in the afternoon on December 24th, Christmas Eve, and truck driver Sirizani Butau of Kadoma, Zimbabwe was travelling from Beira in Mozambique through Zimbabwe on his way to Zambia.

He had his family…. wife and three young children…. waiting for him for rare time off from work for the holiday

 Whilst on the Harare-Mutare highway he saw before him thick black smoke billowing in the sky and high flames.

When he pulled up, he was one of the first responders on the scene.

And it was bad.

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It was a nightmare scenario.

A Beta bus ( think Greyhound ) with 63 passengers had left Harare twenty miles back on the way to Mutare.

It was the last bus for the night, presumably most were eager to get home for the holiday meal.

The driver spotted what is thought to be a drunk pedestrian on the road, and swerved to avoid him.

By doing so, the bus entered the opposite lane on the two lane road.

And at that second, was what the imaginings of Stephen King come to reality.

A Freightliner gas tanker, loaded with petrol.

It was a head-on collision.

The back of the Freightliner exploded, and half the bus was aflame and spreading fast.

There was literally just a moment to access the developing situation and act, and act fast, and act now.

And that’s just what Sirizani did.

First he got the driver and passenger out of the Freightliner.

They died at the scene.

He then pried fully the half open doors to the bus and recognized the driver as a friend of his.

“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 gasoline would catch fire, so when I was trying to retrieve him that is when it caught fire.”

He pulled him out, and by then the entire front of the bus was aflame.

He ran through the bus, through the flame, and pushed open the midway side door, and dozens of injured passengers followed.

As they were pouring out, he ran again to the front and braved entering it once again, because he saw unconscious passengers near the front of the bus and it was lit up.

He grabbed a woman and dragged her to the side door and pulled her out.

And then he went in again and did the same to another woman and a child.

And then another woman.

And others were stuck, unable to get out and were screaming.

So he went in again and pulled out a man.

And he went in again.

And again.

And again.

Eight times he went in.

Wearing only shorts and a singlet.

In an inferno.

He did this single- handedly.

No one else aided him.

Many were filming it from the side of the road, though.

Five people died on the scene and 25 injured have suffered serious injuries.

It would have been much much worse had Sirizani not happen on the scene.

 Adrenaline overloaded and sustaining third degree burns on 15 percent of his body, he walked from person to person to check on them, and when medics showed on the scene, he was taken to the hospital.

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Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa plans to honor him for his selfless act.

“Let me take this opportunity to appreciate Sirizani Butau who saved people from the Mutare accident. As government will honour him for his selfless sacrifice.”

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The opposition party, The MDA Alliance, said no…. that is not enough.

Their provincial chairperson, Ralph Magunje was deeply moved by Sirizani’s selfless service.

“The MDC felt indebted to the bus disaster hero for risking his own life to save eight people who were starring death in that inferno,” he said.

“We managed to mobilise foodstuffs and we will contribute monetarily on his road towards full recovery. He deserves our attention. We should honour him by making sure he and his do not do without.”

Former Chivi MP, Killer Zivhu said Butau deserved a house.

“This guy deserves a house or a stand not just a badge, he will take a long time to heal and will be unable to fend for his family as a result of the burns.

“Politicians, this guy saved lives, no cheap politics please. If you fail, I will see what to do because his bravery touched me.”

Zimbabweans took to social media to express gratitude with a demand that the government must recognize his selfless sacrifice to save others.

Tangibly.

Said a nurse, “He helped save many lives and he must get help cover his medical bills.

The government needs to treat his burns for free. He didn’t ask what political party anyone belonged to when he rescued them. A brother and a sister is a brother and a sister.”

Like far too many here in the States, he’ll have to fend for himself.

He’s a working man…. and he’s hurting.

Of course, he is a hero to his countrymen as many attempt to raise money for his medical bills and living expenses.

Sound familiar?

Just staying in the public Mutare Hospital was costly, so top private Queen Mary Hospital had him transferred there when the owner of the hospital, Dr. Maher Youssef, heard of his heroics.

He’ll only get the very best care, free of charge.

There, like here, that’s not a given.

He’s a humble man, and all this attention has made him uncomfortable.

“I am humbled by the response. It is something that i never expected. My preoccupation of the day was to help and unfortunately got injured in the process, but am doing well. Thank you.”

He did what needed to be done, and for a man such as this, that was enough.

It was when the mother of the child he saved came up to him whilst he was in recovery, and looked in his eyes, and, speaking softly, told him “thank you for saving my daughter,” and hugged him….

…..that was the million dollar reward.

For a man such as this.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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