‘I am just glad to be alive’

2018-10-15 10:12
The rental car used by three men who were involved in a shootout with police on Townbush Road on Thursday night. The men were wanted in connection with hijacking and robbery cases.

The rental car used by three men who were involved in a shootout with police on Townbush Road on Thursday night. The men were wanted in connection with hijacking and robbery cases.

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 “It was like something you only see in movies or CCTV footage but it was happening to me. I heard the gunshots behind me, and then the car hit me and I started to roll.”

This was what a visibly shaken 37-year-old motorist told Weekend Witness after “miraculously” surviving the shootout he found himself caught up in between police and three criminals on Thursday night near Grey’s Hospital.

During the exchange of gunfire one of the suspects was shot dead.

The motorist, who punctuated his story with deep sighs and repeatedly said how traumatic the experience was, asked not to be named.

He said he had just finished a gym session at Cascades Virgin Active and was driving past Grey’s Hospital when he heard the sound of bullets ringing through the air. “When I left the parking lot of the gym, I saw there was a police car parked on the road but I really just thought nothing of it. I thought they might be patrolling.

“Both my windows were down and the sunroof was open because I was feeling warm. There was a car behind me. I thought he was following me. And then I heard the gunshots.”

The traumatised man said when he heard shots being fired, he first thought he was being hijacked and feared he would be hit by a stray bullet. “I looked in the mirror and then there was a loud bang. A car had crashed into the right rear of my car. It all happened so fast. All of a sudden my car was flying and then it started rolling. I could feel myself bumping around. I went into a foetal position and held onto my seatbelt. I think I would be dead if I was not wearing my seatbelt. When my car started rolling, that is when I thought, ‘Eish, now I am going to die’. I am not even religious but I started to pray. When the car finally stopped rolling, I just thanked God.”

The man said he quickly tried to get out of his car because he was afraid it would start burning.

“When I got out, there were police around me telling me to lie down on the floor.

“I think they were confused because the suspects and I were both in white cars but then the one guy started running, and the police left me because they realised I was not a criminal and started chasing the guy. I heard gunshots. The other guy — I think he was the driver — was already dead in the car. The other man was lying on the floor. He was pretending to be dead. One of the officers kicked him in the side to see if he really was dead but then we saw he was pretending.”

He said an ambulance arrived on the scene almost immediately and insisted on checking him for injuries.

He said it was the first time he had been in a car accident, and the first time he had been in an ambulance.

“The police were really sympathetic and helped me when they had chased down the men. But the whole scene plays over and over in my head, especially when I drive.

“I realised life is too short and I am just glad to be alive. I won’t be able to watch action movies for a while I think. It will just take me back ...”

The man thanked the police and others who were at the scene to assist and said he found everyone to be sympathetic and helpful.

According to police, the incident was a build up of a month-long operation in arresting men who have allegedly committed hijackings and robberies across the province. They had used a rental car with false number plates during the incident.

They have allegedly already been linked to 25 different criminal cases across the province.

Suspects expected to appear in court soon

Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said the Pietermaritzburg Flying Squad and K9 unit were alerted to the three suspects who were allegedly involved in thefts of motor vehicles at Howick and the Townhill areas.

“The police officers managed to apprehend two men who had gunshot wounds. The third man died at the scene.

“Car jamming devices and a 9mm pistol were recovered from their vehicle.

“They will be charged with attempted murder, possession of car breaking implements, reckless and negligent driving and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.”

The two men aged between 35 and 45 are due to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court soon.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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