Motorist acquitted of culpable homicide in cyclist’s death

2010-11-25 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG man, Leshendren Maharaj (23) has been acquitted of culpable homicide and eight other charges arising from an accident in which cyclist Themba Ntoni was killed in Chase Valley Road in the early hours of September 19 last year.

Ntoni died at the accident scene of “multiple blunt force trauma” to his head and body.

Maharaj’s version that the cyclist was struck on the opposite side of the road by an approaching vehicle, and was flung onto the bonnet of his Ford Ranger, was supported by accident reconstruction expert Captain Dolf Otto. Otto found that the damage to the rear wheel of the bicycle could not have been caused by Maharaj’s vehicle.

Magistrate Dieter Schultz said in his judgment in the circumstances there was no evidence on which the court could reject Maharaj’s version as false or improbable with regard to the culpable homicide charge.

He also acquitted Maharaj of related charges, including an allegation that he failed to stop and ascertain the nature of the victim’s injuries and defeating or obstructing justice by attempting to remove his vehicle registration plate from the scene.

Schultz said Maharaj had offered a satisfactory explanation.

He told the court that while driving home from the casino at about 3 am an approaching vehicle struck the cyclist, who was on the opposite side of the road. The cyclist was flung in the air and came flying towards his vehicle. The man landed on the bonnet and then fell to the ground.

Maharaj said he was traumatised and confused. He saw the rear lights of the other vehicle driving on.

Maharaj stopped a short distance away where it was safe to do so and walked back to the body. The cyclist lay motionless and did not respond to his calls.

To him it appeared as if the man was dead.

Maharaj said he is an asthmatic and at that point he suffered a severe asthma attack, which can be caused by stress. He went back to his vehicle, but found he did not have his asthma pump. He drove to his home nearby and after using his pump and medication for his asthma, returned to the scene, and gave all the details of what had happened to a police officer at the scene. He denied he tried to remove the registration plate from the scene and said he merely touched it with his foot.

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