Tree smashes vehicle

2011-10-24 00:00

A FATHER and his 20-month-old son narrowly escaped death when a jacaranda tree fell on their moving vehicle in Boom Street on Saturday.

Kevin Hammond (20) and his son Kabe were driving his mother’s friend, Charlene Rossouw (37), to church when a jacaranda tree fell on the car, while Kabe was being fed by Rossouw in the front seat.

All the doors jammed, glass shattered and the child suffered deep cuts on his face and arms that had to be stitched in surgery.

His father suffered abrasions and Rossouw, who was hit on the head, had her skull X-rayed for a possible fracture.

Said Hammond, “I won’t lie. The accident was devastating. I was slowing down as I was approaching the robots driving up Boom Street on the left lane. Then I saw a huge branch break, falling from left to my right,” he said.

He said he tried to swerve underneath it, but the tree was falling too quickly. The tree sounded like a lightning bolt when it broke.

“I was more concerned about my son. When I held him the skin on his face just fell off. We had glass all over.”

Hammond’s mother, Desiree (43), the owner of the car, came rushing from church when someone broke the news to her.

“Get the people praying because they’re really hurt,” the phone call said. The mother said she was “devastated” and reduced to tears when she saw how the massive tree had crushed the car.

“The car is a total write-off,” said Desiree. “We really thank God that my family is alive. God is great. Everyone was just helpful.”

Staff at a nearby electronics shop broke open the doors of the vehicle before firefighters arrived.

Desiree said she wants answers on who is responsible for trees on sidewalks and will possibly claim for damages.

The accident is similar to a case in Brisbane, Australia, where an 84-year-old jacaranda tree toppled on to a car — one of four ancient jacarandas that fell to root rot in Brisbane that year,

Democratic Alliance councillor Rodger Ashe criticised the Msunduzi Municipality for not managing the city’s trees properly. Ashe said there was a tree committee, formed in 1996, to look after the trees, but he cannot remember the last time the committee had a meeting.

“There are lots of trees in town that are not attended to and people could be killed. There needs to be a tree day where trees are inspected,” Ashe said.

A senior manager with the council’s parks and recreation division said the tree committee has not sat for a while and the municipality has no money and equipment to deal with trees. The manager said the division’s sole bucket truck is not workingand will cost about R500 000 to fix.

“We have unstable trees in Oribi Road and overgrown branches and we cannot do anything about it. We have received complaints as well from bus drivers who use Sweetwaters Road about branches they need chopped because their vehicles keep bumping into them. We cannot cut them manually because we might risk injury to municipal workers and cutting them down incorrectly could damage property,” said the manager.

He said the division is considering using bucket trucks from the electricity and fire divisions to trim trees.

A senior manager with the electricity division said some street lamps have also fallen, and they take time to fix for lack of proper equipment.

He said an electric pole fell on a taxi near Sweetwaters and the municipality had to pay for damages.

The victims are said to be recovering well at home.

The municipality was not readily available to comment.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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