Family lose eight in crash

2013-12-23 00:00

ITS a bleak Christmas for a KwaZulu-Natal family who lost eight loved ones in a horror accident on the R103 near Ladysmith on Saturday afternoon.

The victims are among 14 people who died in several accidents in the province at the weekend.

Instead of celebrating Christmas together as they had planned, Dundee mother Welda Pillay and her relatives will now spend the next few days preparing for the funerals of their loved ones who died when their double-cab bakkie smashed head-on into a truck that was allegedly overtaking another vehicle.

A devastated Pillay told The Witness yesterday that her “brain is spinning” as a result of her trauma.

She received news of the crash when a paramedic called her from the accident scene after being given her cellphone number by her 13-year-old son, Deandre, who was one of two survivors in the bakkie.

Her nephew, Dylan (17) — her sister’s son — was the other.

Pillay lost both her parents, William (69) and Martha (66) Avery, her brother Shane (46) and his wife Arleen (44), another brother, Jacques (29), Shane and Arleen’s son Ryan (12) and their daughter Shaleen (7), as well as Arleen’s 15-year-old brother, whose name Pillay didn’t know.

Deandre and Dylan were still suffering from shock but were able to return home to recuperate yesterday.

Deandre suffered a cut on his head and a bruised chest, and Dylan a broken elbow, “roasties” on his head and stitches to cuts on his thigh and the top of his foot.

The family believes angels were watching them as they were asleep in the bin of the bakkie and were flung out by the impact of the collision.

Pillay said she went straight to the hospital and could not face going to the accident scene.

She said her retired parents lived with her in Dundee. They recently undertook a road trip to visit other relatives in Port Elizabeth, then went on to Cape Town to fetch the rest of the family in order to spend Christmas together in Dundee.

They were not very far from home when tragedy struck.

A family friend, who was supporting Pillay in her grief yesterday, said the funeral arrangements would be finalised once other relatives arrived in KZN to help.

She said the family would normally have spent yesterday putting up their Christmas decorations.

“They planned to spend Christmas Day with other family members in Newcastle as well, and they do usually exchange gifts for Christmas,” she said.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said the accident happened between Harrismith and Ladysmith on the R103 near the Peacetown turn-off.

A minibus taxi and a VW Polo that had swerved to avoid the crash site also drove off the road, but the occupants were not injured, she said.

Emergency services used the jaws of life to free survivors and the remains of the dead.

Mngomezulu confirmed that the truck driver will face culpable homicide charges arising from the accident.

KZN Emergency Medical Services’ (EMS) Robert McKenzie meanwhile reported that four other people — two adults and two children — were killed on the N2 near Ezingolweni (about 40 km inland from Port Shepstone) on Saturday morning when a truck and two cars collided. Their names have not been released.

On the R617 near Mpophomeni, Howick, two people (including a child) were killed when a Corsa bakkie veered off the road and plunged into a river on Saturday night. Their names were also not released.

Mngomezulu told The Witness there were high volumes of traffic on all provincial highways throughout the weekend.

Holidaymakers appeared to be streaming to the coast.

At 1 pm yesterday a traffic count on the N3 at Mariannhill plaza revealed that 1 800 vehicles per hour were travelling south and 1 400 per hour north.

In Durban, a total of 52 motorists — out of 627 that were stopped at a roadblock — had been charged with various offences, including drunk driving, on Friday night.

The most intoxicated driver allegedly had a breath alcohol content of 1,13 mg per 1 000 ml of blood. The legal limit is 0,24 mg per 1 000 ml of breath.

In Pietermaritzburg, nine people were arrested and charged for drunk driving.

The highest breathalyser reading was 0,95 mg per 1 000 ml of breath.

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