Woman relives horror of being trapped in car

2014-04-24 00:00

THE woman who was trapped in her car for 17 hours in La Lucia says at least two groups of thieves broke in as she lay injured.

And Phyllis Hollis told The Witness that one man who did try to flag down passing motorists for help was ignored — “because no one stops for a vagrant”.

Recovering at Umhlanga Hospital yesterday with bruising and a cracked rib, the Hillcrest woman praised “an entire community” for saving her life — including her life-long domestic worker, her 83-year-old neighbour, volunteers at SA CAN, and Metro police.

Now, at “an age in the lower 60s”, she said she would live to see the birth of her first grandchildren — twins — next week.

Hollis crashed — unnoticed — into thick brambles on a hairpin bend in La Lucia at 3 pm on Sunday afternoon, and was rescued only at 8 am on Monday morning after a bizarre night in which rescuers failed to find her, but criminals did.

In an interview, Hollis said she became “desperately thirsty”, and “started to shake” when her cellphone battery began to die. The single mother-of-two was able to reach her cellphone — as the car lay buried on its side in the bush — at around 4 am, and its signal was the sole clue rescuers had on her location.

Disoriented, Hollis herself told SA CAN responders that she thought she had crashed 30 km away, in Hillcrest. In fact, she was in a bush just three metres from a lethal drop onto the M4 highway.

“When people called I had to say I can’t talk: the phone says, ‘Please charge’, and the battery is my lifeline,” she said. “But generally I was very calm.”

Hollis said at least two “youngsters” smashed the rear window and rummaged in the back of her Toyota as she lay trapped in the front. “They said, ‘We are just trying to see if there is something here we need’,” she recalled.

“Then an older gentleman chased them off. He climbed on the car, reached his arm through and grabbed my hand, but couldn’t budge me. He was very polite. I heard him go to try and flag down cars on the road, but no one stopped. I suppose he gave up and walked off.”

Remarkably, Hollis says a second group of thieves snuck into the rear of the car an hour later.

“I shouted at them — I warned them I had called the police,” she said. “At least they couldn’t get to me — there were branches in the car.”

Having searched the bushes without luck the night before, volunteers from SA CAN again tracked her cellphone signal to the area around the M4.

They enlisted the help of Metro Police, who spotted tyre tracks leading into the brambles.

“I could hear them talking, so I shouted that I was there — I was so happy,” she said.

Veronica Mkhize, Hollis’s domestic worker of 26 years, said her employer had phoned to say she was lost while travelling home from a friend’s home in Umhlanga on Sunday afternoon.

Mkhize alerted her neighbour, Sue Christie (83), when Hollis had not returned home by 7 pm. “I was concerned because of all the Easter traffic, and because she never drives at night,” said Mkhize.

Having called local police stations without success, Christie said she called SA CAN.

“Normally, no one cares if a person doesn’t answer their phone or appears to be missing for a few hours, but SA CAN leapt into action right away — thank God there are people left that are looking after this community,” said Christie.

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