‘I dozed off before impact’

2014-03-28 00:00

A 21-YEAR-OLD man said yesterday he fell asleep at the wheel of his car when he ran over and killed accountant Neil Robinson along Alexandra Road Extension on February 9 last year.

Robinson (60) was jogging with his partner, Lynn-Rae van den Berg (43), at the time.

Durban University of Technology student Zandisile Ndaba pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of culpable homicide for causing Robinson’s death.

He said the incident will be on his conscience for the rest of his life.

Ndaba was originally charged with murder, but the charge was later changed to culpable homicide.

In his statement read to regional court magistrate Corrie Greyling by his attorney, Jacques Botha, Ndaba said he was very tired at the time after attending an all-night wake for his great-grandmother. He believes he must have fallen asleep at the wheel moments before the accident, causing him to lose control.

He also admitted he was speeding, driving at a speed of around 90 km/h in a 60 km/h zone.

At the time he’d only had his driver’s licence for 11 months.

Ndaba said he was en route to collect his mother’s medication from a local pharmacy and was “running late”.

It was his great-grandmother’s funeral that day.

As it was early — around 7.55 am — there was no visible traffic on the road and he drove at an excessive speed.

“It should be noted that the road in question is very wide, is well surfaced and with virtually no bends or curves, thereby affording substantial forward visibility,” he said.

Ndaba said he noticed at least one oncoming vehicle far in the distance.

“I am unable to account for the few seconds thereafter, and only next recall being aware of my vehicle on the wrong side of the road, namely in the face of the oncoming vehicle which was by now closer to me, and my vehicle drifting across its path of travel … I distinctly recall being aware of the hooting of the vehicle and, in this regard, can only explain these events in the light of my having briefly fallen asleep at the wheel and thereafter being awoken by hooting.”

Ndaba said he was “dazed, startled and shocked” and reacted by swerving sharply back to the correct side of the road.

In the process he had “over-corrected” and found himself drifting to the left side of the road, creating a “second emergency” he had to deal with.

He’d thereafter lost control.

“In a desperate attempt to control the vehicle, I wrestled with the steering and brakes, but to no avail,” he said.

“By this stage, I had virtually no control over the vehicle and did not have the skill to regain control thereover. Instinctively I bent down and braced myself for the impact while at the same time being aware of the fact that the vehicle was rolling and striking objects.

“The vehicle came to rest on its wheels, whereafter I recall being awoken in the driver’s seat.”

He said he believes he was temporarily concussed or unconscious as a result of the impact. He had sustained head injuries, was dazed and confused and had a very painful right shoulder, which was later found to be a broken clavicle.

Ndaba said he was taken out of the vehicle and various people put questions to him, which he couldn’t answer.

“Certain of these people were hostile and it took some time for me to realise that a pedestrian had lost his life in this incident. At no stage did I even see a pedestrian,” he said, admitting he was negligent for driving while tired, “having only slept for an hour in the past 30 hours or so”, and for speeding. He had not drunk any alcohol, he said.

Ndaba said he was remorseful. “My family forwarded a card containing a message of condolence to the family of the deceased and further attempted to express our condolences in this regard. The nature of the investigation against me was such that my family and I were later instructed to refrain from doing so. I am truly regretful over the loss of life as a result of this incident, which will weigh heavily on my conscience for the remainder of my life,” he said.

The state and defence will lead evidence prior to sentencing, which has been set down for November 24 and 25.

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