Dad talks about losing his daughter after his three kids were in a car crash

2019-07-17 21:00
Angel-Lee. (Supplied)

Angel-Lee. (Supplied)

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"We could see her slipping away moment by moment. We gave her to God just before 2pm that afternoon. Both [my wife] Jaen-Mari and I said to God it's okay, He could take her."

Two weeks after his daughter's death, the shocking scene of the car accident that claimed her life still haunts this father of three. His sister's partner's body had been pinned in the driver's seat of the wreck. On the back seat, his three children's belongings were scattered.

Weeks after the crash in which his three children, his sister and her partner were involved, it still feels as if a part of him died along with Angel-Lee, 9, that day, Tommie Blignaut, 41, who works in the mining industry, tells YOU.

"We’re shattered, our hearts are broken. One simply doesn’t know how to come to terms with this kind of loss," he says.

The community of eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, where the Blignauts – Tommie and his wife, Jaen-Mari, 33, and their three children, Angel-Lee, Caylin, 13, and Jesse James, 5, are from –  has been in mourning for the little girl who family members describe as "a ray of sunshine".

The accident, his worst nightmare, happened on June 29, Tommie says. He and Jaen-Mari had just arrived home at about 5pm from a family outing to Pretoria when Jaen-Mari’s cellphone rang.

She answered the call, which came from an unknown number.

"Madam, were your children travelling with your sister-in-law?" the caller wanted to know.

Angel-Lee, Caylin and Jesse James had indeed been in the car with Tommie’s sister, Rina Marais, and her partner, Koos Meyer. They’d been on their way to visit the kids' grandparents when they were in a head-on collision on the N14 highway.

Tommie and Jaen-Mari raced to the scene of the accident.

"A paramedic called me from the scene to update me," Tommie says. "The most horrific things go through your mind. You don’t know what you’ll find when you get there – you're just praying that your loved ones are alive."

Jesse James
Jesse James. (Supplied)

By the time Tommie and Jaen-Mari got to the scene, Koos had already been declared dead. An ambulance had taken Rina, Caylin and Jesse James to the Lenmed Randfontein hospital. Angel-Lee had been airlifted to the Busamed Modderfontein private hospital.

"I hadn't wanted Jaen-Mari to see the devastation. I walked up to the wreck on my own and saw Koos' body still trapped inside. My daughter's shoes were on the back seat. It was extremely traumatic," Tommie says, his voice crackling with emotion.

Rina's brow bone and jaw were broken, and her left arm crushed. Jesse James had serious bruises and his one lung had collapsed. Caylin had a broken pelvis, shoulder and jaw.

"Angel-Lee’s condition was critical – that's why she was taken elsewhere. Both her legs were broken. At the hospital an artery ruptured internally."

One of the passengers in the other vehicle was also killed but no further information about the other car is known.

Tommie says Angel-Lee’s condition steadily deteriorated. On July 1, two days after the accident, doctors called her parents to the hospital.

Caylin
Caylin. (Supplied)

"The doctor told us [on the phone] they were losing her. It was 12.15pm. I asked him to call me back and he put the phone to her ear. I told her, 'My love, Mommy and Daddy are on our way. Just hold on.'

"It was horrible seeing her in hospital. There were tubes in her throat and her eyes were taped shut. They'd performed brain surgery earlier. We could see her slipping further and further away each moment. Just before 2pm, we gave her to God."

The family are trying to pick up the pieces of their life. Caylin and Jesse James have been discharged and though Rina is still in hospital, her condition is stable.

"Our home has never felt this empty. It feels like something's missing. And there is: our little girl. The children ask about her, but what do you tell them?

Angel-Lee
Angel-Lee remembered. (Supplied)

"All we can say is that she's with Jesus. We don't know if we'll ever get used to the loss, if it's ever going to stop hurting. But we know she's with God – that’s our only comfort right now.”

A memorial service for Angel-Lee was held on July 11.

Read more on:    mpumalanga  |  car accident
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