Commando recalls 26/11 experience

Nivedita Ganguly Mumbai | Updated on November 17, 2011

Dealing with disasters: South African commando, ZaneWilmans, speaking on his experiences of 26/11 at JamnabaiNarsee School on a Safety Awareness Programme in Mumbaion Thursday. — Shashi Ashiwal   -  Business Line

‘Trust your instincts and stick together in times of crisis'

When Zane Wilmans entered The Taj Residency at Colaba, he was floored by the beauty and grandeur of the iconic place. He along with his the team of security personnel were looking ahead to a relaxing evening at the Lebanese restaurant in the hotel before they got on with their job for the Champion's League.

“The restaurant was brimming with people. It was then that we heard the first explosion,” recollects Wilmans. Now the director of Protexxx Security Company, Zane Wilmans was one of the seven South African specialists who helped in saving 150 people from the Taj Hotel on 26/11, when 10 gun-men held Mumbai hostage in 2008.

To mark the third anniversary of the Mumbai attacks on 26/11, Jamnabai Narsee School had invited the commando to talk to students about how to deal with emergencies. In fact, Wilmans has in the past worked in West Asia on several assignments and protected several top executives, Hollywood celebrities and sport stars.

“It (26/11) was a unique situation. Initially, we thought it was a fire cracker outside the hotel. But when the fire alarm went off, we rushed into action. We realised the magnitude of the situation much later when we were evacuating a conference hall filled with more than 100 people,” Wilmans said.

Outside the hotel, the grenade blasts were followed by indiscriminate but lethal machine gun fire. “It was then that we realised it is a terror attack,” he said. Zane Wilmans and his team battled for hours at a stretch on that fateful night to save the lives of the people present there.

In situations like these, it is very crucial to not panic, he told the students as they listened wide-eyed to the anecdotes of his assignments. Narrating his experiences in times of terror attacks, Wilmans said that the key to self-protection is awareness of the surroundings. “Read newspapers, plan ahead rather than have a reactive response. And remember that it can happen to everyone,” he said.

Applauding the brilliant teamwork and coordination of Indian commandoes during the terror attack, Wilmans said that the people present inside the hotel were very brave. “Trust your instincts and stick together in times of crisis. Unless you help yourself and be calm, you cannot help others,” he added.

Published on November 17, 2011

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