Collin Kaseke has a special connection with Buju Banton’s song Buried Alive. The Jamaican reggae star sings about his ordeal of spending 10 years in a US prison on drug charges. But for Kaseke, a well digger from Marondera, the song is a reminder of his own near-death experience.
On July 17, 2019, Kaseke was working on a well in central Marondera, 11 meters below the ground. He was about to climb up using a rope when the well suddenly collapsed. He was trapped under tons of soil, with no way out.
Everyone thought he was dead. A crowd gathered around the well, mourning his loss. But Kaseke was still alive, clinging to the rope that gave him a lifeline. He was facing downwards, feeling the weight of the earth crushing him. He could barely breathe.
He prayed to God for a miracle.
“I cannot forget that day, I always relive what happened. I cannot believe that I am still alive. It was by the Grace of God,” he told NewsDay Weekender recently.
He said the rope he used to lower himself into the well probably saved him from suffocating, creating a small opening that supplied him with oxygen.
“As I was going up using a rope, the well collapsed. Sand pushed me down, but I did not let the rope go. I was facing downwards, I felt as if I was lifting the world. As people tried to pull the rope thinking that I was dead, I pulled it back signalling that I was alive. That created an opening that supplied oxygen,” he recalled.
For six hours, he remained buried alive, hoping for someone to rescue him. He said he saw his ancestors sleeping underground, but they did not help him. He realised that only God could save him.
He listened to his favourite song by Buju Banton on his phone: I was buried alive; But I’m still breathing; I don’t know what tomorrow may bring; But I’ve got a feeling; I am alive.
He felt a surge of hope.
Then he heard voices above him. It was the Marondera Fire Brigade team, who had come to retrieve his body. They did not expect to find him alive.
“I started feeling that the weight of the sand was decreasing on me. Hope was renewed. One of the rescuers grabbed my hand and when he discovered that I was alive he dropped it and fled. He couldn’t believe that I had made it. They retrieved me after a caucus,” Kaseke said.
He emerged from the well, covered in dirt and blood. He was rushed to hospital, where he recovered from his injuries. But his left hand was permanently paralysed from holding on to the rope for too long.
He also suffered from trauma and nightmares. He decided to quit his job as a well digger, which he had done for decades.
“Digging wells is all I had known, but I had to quit. Life is precious,” he said.
He also found new faith in God and joined the Grace Bible Academy church. He said his brush with death changed his outlook on life and made him appreciate every moment.
“While trapped, I observed that my ancestors who are buried underground were sleeping. I was under the earth and they did nothing. I had to look up and the one above (God) saved me. I am now a member of the Grace Bible Academy,” Kaseke said.
He still struggles with some old habits of smoking and drinking, but he believes that becoming a devout Christian is a process and that he will get there eventually.
He listens to Buju Banton again: Now, I am alive; There must be a reason; I was given one more chance; My heart’s still beating.
He smiles and wipes away his tears. He is grateful for his second chance at life.