Speeding taxi driver kills officer

2008-06-12 00:00

A taxi driver who had skipped two red lights, knocked down and fatally injured a traffic officer in the city centre yesterday morning.

His taxi dragged officer Desmond Hanson (39) until the vehicle smashed into a lamppost.

The accident took place in Peter Kerchhoff (Chapel) Street at 6.15 am. Hanson received a radio call that a blue and white minibus taxi had just skipped two red robots in Pietermaritz Street and was heading towards Peter Kerchhoff Street.

Hanson was asked to stop it, and dressed in reflective uniform, stepped into the road. He raised his hands to flag down the taxi, but the driver allegedly changed lanes twice when he saw the officer and then ploughed into him.

Hanson’s severely injured body was lodged under the vehicle. He was rushed to St Anne’s Hospital, where he died four hours later.

His father, retired traffic officer Basil Hanson, said he is angry and hurt by the death of his son.

“I am hurt, deeply hurt by this. I am also a victim of taxi drivers, last year I landed in hospital with a broken collar bone and multiple body injuries. I was riding a motorbike and a taxi driver opened a door on the road as I was about to overtake,” he said.

The 33-year-old taxi driver was arrested at the scene and police are investigating a case of murder.

Hanson was a senior traffic officer with 15 years’ service in the municipal traffic department and was also a police reservist for eight years, attaining the rank of sergeant. Colleagues and friends have expressed their sympathies to the Hanson family.

Superintendent Sean Jackson of the SAPS Mounted Unit, in which Hanson served, said he was dedicated to law enforcement. “He worked on horseback for four years at special events … he lived law enforcement, and sometimes took vacation leave to work with us.” Hanson patrolled on horseback at events like the Royal Show, Midmar Mile, Dusi Canoe Marathon and on the Durban beachfront during holidays. “He will be sorely missed in law enforcement,” said Jackson.

Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell said Hanson served the city with distinction.

“On behalf of the municipality, I want to express our sincere and deep sympathy to the Hanson family. Desmond, like his father before him, served our traffic section with distinction, and we are outraged by his tragic and completely unacceptable death …”

Msunduzi traffic head Kenneth Chetty said staff are traumatised.

“It is the first time that an officer has been knocked down and killed in Pietermaritzburg …”

He expressed his condolences to the family, saying the traffic department has lost “one of the members of our own family … We are deeply saddened by this terrible loss.”

Taxi operators also expressed their condolences and strongly condemned the driver’s behaviour.

Msunduzi One Taxi Association chairman Boy Zondi said taxi operators send “our deepest condolences to the Hanson family and as taxi operators we want to put it on record that we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour from drivers …”

A memorial service will be held in the city hall at 10 am today. Hanson’s funeral will be held on Tuesday at Avbob in Pietermaritz Street.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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