Shot, bloodied and fearing for his life, Kiwi holidaymaker David Gall lay on the ground during a dramatic robbery on a South African holiday, praying that the gunman would not shoot him in the head.
Moments before, the primary school relief teacher had interrupted an intruder who was trying to get into the homestead where David was staying in the tiny settlement of Barberton.
David had travelled to South Africa in October for a 19-day adventure. He enrolled in a bush-flying course based four hours east of Johannesburg and was staying nearby when the home invasion occurred.
Waking up in the early hours of the morning to answer his cellphone, David was shocked to find himself face-to-face with an intruder, who was hunched in a window frame and pointing a gun at him.
“I was sleeping when I heard my phone go off. I got out of bed and when I looked up, there was a guy in the window frame, looking at me, holding a gun. I thought I was seeing things at first. I didn’t think it was real.”
But when David realised he wasn’t dreaming, he turned on the lights and screamed to alert others staying in the home.
“I don’t know why I did that, it was just my natural instinct. I was probably trying to make noise to scare them away.”
David’s actions didn’t scare anyone – instead, the gunman, who had two other men with him, reacted in the worst possible way.
“He told me to ‘shush’ and fired the gun at me,” he recalls.
“I felt the sensation of being shot and blood started pouring down me. I jumped on the floor and just stayed there. I learned you can’t argue with a gun.”
David lay on the ground, wounded and fearing for his life.
“They didn’t care if I lived or died. All he was doing was trying to shut me up. I honestly think he was aiming for my chest and missed. It wasn’t a warning.”
Hoping the invaders wouldn’t kill him, David lay still, praying these were not going to be his final moments. The robbers stole the Aucklander’s wallet, cellphones and laptop, until they realised other people were in the home and fled the scene, leaving David distraught.
“My friends whistle the James Bond theme and think of me,” he says.
“It was a surreal moment. I’m normally a bubbly, fun person, but the next day I felt so low. All of a sudden the realisation hit that I very nearly lost my life.”
The bullet was intended to kill David, but instead went through his shoulder, narrowly missing the bone and his heart. If the bullet had been just one centimetre lower, it would have been a very different story.
David called the police and tended to his wounds. Miraculously, he wasn’t in pain, and the wound wasn’t serious.
“I jumped into the shower and washed out all the blood, patched it up and bandaged it as best as I could,” he says.
Seeing the local doctor that afternoon confirmed he had not sustained any serious injuries. David had, literally, dodged a bullet.
“He cut away some dead flesh and could see the bullet just went under the skin. All he gave me were bandages to dress it every day.”
David made a police complaint, but they have not found the man who shot him. David describes the act as an “attempted murder”.
“What has kept me sane is telling people about my ordeal and not bottling anything up. I’m constantly going through the scenario over in my head.
“He could have finished me off. I was lying on the ground, he knew I was still breathing. I’m lucky to be alive.“
David had to change his travel plans due to the incident, but was relieved to come home.
An avid traveller, having visited more than 30 countries, David’s experience hasn’t put him off going abroad, but says he’ll be vigilant on future trips.
“It’s knocked off the feeling I’m invincible. Living in New Zealand, you feel you can do anything and not worry, with this illusion nothing is going to happen. That little bubble has been burst for me.”