NAMIBIANS were united last Thursday after the video of a woman risking her life to rescue an eight-months-old baby who was thrown out of a motor-vehicle during an accident that killed five people along the Windhoek-Okahandja road, went viral.
The woman, Tulonga Neputa (35), ignored calls from her workmates, with whom she was travelling in a minibus, to dash towards the wrecks of the cars - a VW Amarok twin-cab and a BMW - about 18 kilometres from Okahandja to pick up baby Dex Heger.
Baby Dex' grandfather, Frank Joachim Heger, who was driving the Amarok, and the four occupants of the BMW died on the spot. Police yesterday identified two of the people who were travelling in the BMW as Nikodemus Iiyambo (40) and Tanzanian Eric Mbago, whose age was not given.
A picture posted on social media networking sites during the weekend showed a smiling Dex sitting on his mother, Nadja Heger's lap in a Windhoek hospital, while hundreds of people praised Neputa for her bravery.
Neputa, a mother of two, was on her way to Walvis Bay for the state-owned enterprises games when they got to the accident scene moments after it had occurred.
One of the first videos from the scene shows Neputa telling her workmates that she was going to pick the baby up, while others were discouraging her from going.
In an interview with Informanté later, Neputa said when she saw the baby lying on the ground, she just thought of getting it.
"When I saw the baby lying on the ground, close to the car, close to the bakkie actually, at that moment, I just wanted to get out of that car and just run and go get that baby.
"At that time, there was smoke coming out of the car. And I don't know; I was just thinking about the baby. I guess that motherly instinct just kicked in instantly," she told Informanté.
Neputa also told Informanté that she felt nauseous when they reached Okahandja because of the horrific nature of the accident.
"I didn't know what had just happened; I felt nauseous. It's like I wanted to throw up. I didn't know the feeling at that point. I was in shock. The shock happened later, and not when I was helping the baby," she was quoted as saying.
Talking to The Namibian yesterday, Neputa said she also hardly slept that Thursday night, and had to consult a doctor on Friday.
"I was not feeling well after what I had witnessed. I am a mother myself, and I immediately imagined my own baby boy in that situation," she added.
There were calls too from several people for the government to honour Neputa, like what French president Emmanuel Macron did to Malian immigrant Mamoudou Gassama, who scaled four balconies to rescue a toddler from falling from the fourth floor a few weeks ago.
Although the government has not pronounced itself on Neputa's case, the SoE Forum took the lead by renaming their chairman's award to the Tulonga Neputa award.
Neputa was also this year's winner of the SoE Forum trophy, which forum chairman Audrin Mathe said is reserved for sports teams or individuals who show commitment and resilience.
Mathe added that they found it befitting to rename and award the trophy to Neputa because of her heroism.
Neputa told The Namibian that she felt blessed and honoured to receive the award.
The forum, through the Namibia Wildlife Resorts, also awarded Neputa a free weekend's stay at the Popa Falls resort.
Neputa said she spoke to baby Dex's parents, who thanked her, and promised to get back to her after the burial of the baby's grandfather.