I was not drunk - motorist charged with killing two cyclists

2018-01-15 22:27
The car which had smashed into the cyclists. (Photos supplied by Garrith Jamieson, Rescuecare)

The car which had smashed into the cyclists. (Photos supplied by Garrith Jamieson, Rescuecare)

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Durban - Omesh Ramnarain, the motorist charged with crashing into and killing two cyclists on the M4 Highway leading out of Durban almost two years ago, says he was not drunk on the morning of the accident.

The Durban Regional Court on Monday heard his version that he had only consumed four cider drinks during that evening although at one stage "other patrons" at the bar had spilt drinks on him.

READ: Culpable homicide case involving 2 Durban cyclists to go to trial

He also denied any negligence claiming that he was driving home at about 05:00 when he heard a "loud bang" and his windscreen shattered.

"I braked and moved towards the left in order to stop and moments later heard another bang. I could not see properly out of my smashed windscreen," he said in a written explanation of his not guilty plea which was read into the record by his advocate Murray Pitman.

"I did not see the cyclists prior to hitting them. I did not expect them on the road at all because the M4 is a freeway which prohibits bicycles.”

Monday saw the start of the long-awaited five-day trial before Magistrate Anand Maharaj in which Ramnarain, a 33-year-old plumber,  is accused of culpable homicide for the deaths of Richard Da Silva, 46, and his friend and cycling partner Jared Dwyer, 36.

The pair were on an early morning ride with a group of cyclists when they were struck by Ramnarain’s black Golf GTI. They both died at the scene.

The State’s first witness was James Murray, who said he had woken early that day to go for his first ever cycle ride in Umhlanga.

He said he was driving in his car heading north on the M4 when a black GTI “travelling at great speed" came up behind him.

"The road was empty. The vehicle got extremely close behind me and suddenly veered out and overtook. Another light coloured vehicle then overtook me. They appeared to be travelling together at high speed."

Guilty/not guilty plea

Murray said he lost sight of them for a few seconds. When he rounded the bend, someone flagged him down.

"The GTI was stationary. It was damaged. The windscreen was smashed. I opened the door and asked if everyone was alright. The driver (who he identified as Ramnarain) just kept repeating ‘I was going straight’...

"I was about 30cm from him. I smelled the alcohol as I opened the door."

Murray said the bikes were both mangled and the cyclists were "obviously seriously injured".

ALSO READ: 'My life cannot carry on' - partner of killed Durban cyclist

While he initially said that the cyclists were both in the emergency lane, after being shown pictures of the scene by Pitman, he conceded that they were in the left hand lane.

Pitman also suggested that he had not spoken to Ramnarain while he was in his car and that he had already gotten out.

Murray conceded that he could not say whether the smell of alcohol was coming from the accused or a passenger.

Last year, Ramnarian’s previous attorneys told Maharaj that he would plead guilty to the charges in terms of a plea bargain agreement with Prosecutor Herman Mouton.

However, on the day of the proposed plea, his new attorneys indicated that he would now plead not guilty at a trial, sparking outrage from the victims' families.

In his statement on Monday, he sought to clarify this by saying he had never acknowledged any guilt and that reports that he had "changed his plea" were false.

He said all negotiations had taken place between the State and his erstwhile lawyers "and I decided that I could not plead guilty to something in respect of which I was not guilty despite the advice of my lawyers".

The trial continues on Tuesday.

Read more on:    durban  |  accidents

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