Kind OR Tambo policeman rescues woman from travel nightmare

2018-04-24 12:30 - Kavitha Pillay
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SAPS officer Vincent did everything in his power to assist a passenger at OR Tambo airport (Photo: Facebook/ Isma Theron-De Witt)

It's not often that a human being will drop everything on their schedule to help a complete stranger - even when it's their job.

While this a sad reality across many service fields around the world, there are a handful of people who prove to be selfless when it comes to assisting strangers, and expect nothing in return.

This was the case recently at OR Tambo airport when Isma Theron-De Witt from Centurion in Gauteng had her travel nightmares averted by SAPS officer Vincent.

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Theron-De Witt took to Facebook to share her ordeal, as well as the act of kindness carried out by the officer - whom she only refers to as "officer Vincent" - who made a massive difference in comforting and assisting her to reach her destination.

The airport passenger found herself in a dilemma on Sunday, 22 April, when she was rushing to catch the Gautrain and forgot her handbag on the plane.

SEE: #TravelNightmares: What to do when you've lost your passport

To make matters worse, she was sent "from counter to counter just to find closed offices" and says she received "zero help from airport staff".

"Fed up and frustrated I broke down. In public. I had no money, a flat phone, no charger, no cigarettes and no hope," says Theron-De Witt.

She says she thinks officer Vincent "got the fright of his life" when he found her sitting on the airport floor in tears.

Theron-De Witt says that the officer immediately offered to take her to get medical help and took swift action to help find her bag.

"Not only did this man patiently sit with me to calm me down, but he eventually found my handbag and even helped me find an airport transfer when my app wasn't working. And stayed with me all along," she says, adding that she was "So blessed to have met one of the gems of the SAPS!"

As simple as such an act may be, giving of one's time to assist a stranger is very rare in the rush we face on a daily basis - especially at an airport! And this kind act made a world of difference to the passenger's well-being.

While Theron-De Witt was lucky enough to not only receive help at one of the country's busiest airports at that odd hour, but also to trace her handbag on the same night, not many passengers are fortunate enough to avoid facing such travel nightmares.

Want to share your travel experiences with us? Drop us a line at or DM on Instagram.  

Here are some ways you can avert travel dilemmas: 

Don't lose your passport

While the goal is to ensure that this document is safely kept with you throughout your travels, mishaps do happen and in the event that you part ways with your precious passport while holidaying, you need to contact the authorities immediately, contact the South African Embassy or Consulate, and apply for an Emergency Travel Certificate. Click here for all the steps to follow should you lose your passport.

SEE: #TravelNightmares: What to do when you've lost your passport

Have the correct visa

Do your visa applications three months in advance, and check with visa on arrival if there are any other key requirements, as some countries also require visas for international stop-overs during connecting flights.

ALSO SEE: #PassportGang: Passport nightmares that could see you making a 'u-turn' home

Blank pages

Too few blank pages in a passport can send you back home! You need to have at least two completely blank pages in your passport, for some countries it is as much as four.

If your passport is still valid for a number of years but you’re running out of pages, you can apply for additional pages to be inserted - at a fee though.

SEE: South Africans can now apply for passports at their respective banks

Expiration date

If your passport is within six months or less of its expiration date be prepared for certain immigration officials to kick up a fuss - especially if you're travelling to a Schengen destination. In some instances, your passport actually 'expires' three months before it expires.

SEE: Warning: Your passport 'expires' three months before it expires!

Passport photo 

If your physical appearance has changed significantly, it could see you being refused entry into a country. This does not refer to a new hairstyle, beard or ageing but things to consider include significant facial surgery or trauma, facial piercings that dramatically change the way you look, dramatic weight loss as well as gender transition.

Bring further photo evidence to the airport if you must.

Your name

Ensure that the spelling of your name on your flight ticket is exactly the same as it is on your passport - otherwise, you may be refused from your flight or charged a hefty fee.

Even a simple misspelling of your name on your ticket could be the reason for you to be denied access, so make sure it’s rectified before you travel. 

SEE: Flight bookings 101: Pensioner suffers costly mistake of spelling error on online booking

Don't say the 'B-word'!

Never say the word bomb.

Acsa spokesperson for OR Tambo International Airport Leigh Gunkel-Keuler says, “The airport follows a zero-tolerance approach to bomb threats, irrespective of the circumstances.”

Airlines also have the right to refuse to carry you or your baggage if you make any form of threat or display unacceptable behaviour. Click here to read up on how to breeze through airport security.

SEE: Bombs away! How to get through airport security smoothly