Taxi driver to face charges

2013-01-05 00:00

THE taxi driver involved in the crash that cost the life of KwaZulu-Natal mountain bike champion Burry Stander will be prosecuted.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed the man would face a charge of culpable homicide and appear in the Port Shepstone Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

“Witness statements were taken and the senior public prosecutor decided there was sufficient evidence to prosecute,” he said.

The news came 24 hours after Stander (25) died on Thursday from horrific injuries, prompting a national outpouring of grief.

His father, Charles, spoke of his heartache in a press statement on Stander’s Facebook page.

“No parent should ever have to see his child lying on a tarred road after an accident, knowing that there is absolutely nothing he can do to save his life.

“It is definitely the worst moment of my life. Words cannot even begin to describe how one feels when it happens. It was terrible,” he said.

Charles said his son was so much more than a champ on the bike.

“For us, Burry will always be more than just a mountain bike champion. In fact, he was a champion on and off his bike,” he added.

“For him, his family always came first. He never hesitated to help when and wherever he could.”

Stander was on a training ride when he was killed. The force of the impact broke his bike in half.

The accident happened at 5 pm on the corner of Marine Drive and Stott Street in Shelly Beach on the South Coast — and it proved too much for his mom Mandie and wife Cherise, who arrived soon after.

Both had to be sedated and taken to hospital, said Belinda Catchpole, Port Shepstone base manager for KwaZulu Private Ambulance.

“I was literally holding his mom down; she was running around the cars,” said Catchpole, who was first on the scene.

She said Stander’s death was instant. “He suffered massive head trauma and internal injuries.”

Stander was cycling north on Marine Drive, apparently in the same direction as the taxi.

The collision happened in the emergency lane just before the intersection with Stott Street, allegedly as the taxi was attempting to turn left.

A large red X marks the point of impact in the road and the spot where Stander died.

A photo obtained by Weekend Witness shows his bike connected with the front passenger door, consistent with the alleged version of events.

There was speculation in social media that the taxi driver had absconded. Police quickly denied this and Catchpole said that he had tried to assist.

“The taxi driver ran to help; he wanted to help. He was on the scene after the body was removed and went with police to make a statement. It was a genuine accident.”

Flowers have since been placed on a nearby street pole in tribute.

Unofficial memorial rides are planned for around the country this weekend. Tonight, hundreds of cyclists are expected to take part in an event at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, starting at 8 pm.

Although the night cycle is a regular event on the calendar of a safety awareness group called Critical Mass, they have decided to dedicate it to Stander.

Aroon Patel, a regular of the monthly Critical Mass rides, asked the people joining them to wear white clothes and black armbands.

“At the start, when we usually do our briefing, we will observe a moment’s silence for Burry,” he said.

Similar events will take place in Cape Town and Johannesburg. An official ride in memory of Stander will more than likely take place next week, probably after the funeral, which has not been announced yet.

Meanwhile, tributes continued to poir in, with politicians joining the chorus. Sport and Recreation MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha said: “Stander was a role model to many young athletes who were inspired by his passion and commitment to sport.”

Steven Ngubeni, chief executive officer of the National Youth Development Agency, said: “This is a massive loss to the Stander family, the sport of cycling and the country as a whole.

“At 25 years, he still had huge potential to make South Africa proud. The carnage on our roads demands that we come together as a country to implement sustainable solutions.”

In 2003, Stander was the under-23 MTB World Cup champion and he represented the country in the cross-country event at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

His sterling performance in London last year, where he placed fifth, meant he was primed for a medal in Rio in 2016.

• The South Coast will hold a memorial ride for Stander from C-Bali, St Michael’s, to Uvongo Beach at 2 pm tomorrow.

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