Jimmy family, Ford SA find 'closure' in Kuga inferno saga

2019-08-05 17:57
Reshall Jimmy's sister Renisha, with her attorney Rod Montano and advocate Gerrie Nel. (File, Jenni Evans, News24)

Reshall Jimmy's sister Renisha, with her attorney Rod Montano and advocate Gerrie Nel. (File, Jenni Evans, News24)

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The evidence presented during the inquest into Reshall Jimmy’s death has brought closure to his family four years after he died, strapped in his Ford Kuga while on holiday in Wilderness.

"We as a family accept that there is no evidence uncovered in the inquest thus far to suggest that my brother committed suicide, that he was murdered or that there was a Ford product failure in the vehicle of my brother on 4 December 2015," Reshall's sister Renisha said in an affidavit handed to the court.

This after she sat through weeks of testimony and listened to the findings of various witnesses provide theories of what could have caused the blaze the night her brother died.

"Our attorney and counsel have advised us that there are material conflicting views between six expert witnesses as to the cause and origin of the fire," she said.

"My family accepts the advice of our legal advisors, and that a finding of 'undetermined' is just."

READ: Jimmy family withdraws from inquest, believes evidence dispels 'unfounded rumours'

According to a position paper submitted to the State and Judge Robert Henney by the Jimmy family and Ford SA, it appeared to both parties that a finding of "undetermined" was inevitable, based on the procured evidence.

The two parties had engaged to resolve disputes and jointly submitted that the inquest had been pursued in the interest of justice and that the evidence produced during the inquest had brought closure to both the family and the company.

Henney said the inquest would continue, pointing out that the cause of the fire had not yet been confirmed and that there was still no explanation as to why Jimmy had not gotten out of the SUV when it started burning.

The Jimmy family on Monday said they would no longer legally be participating in the probe, with their attorney Rod Montano confirming that they had accepted that Reshall had died in the vehicle and that the cause was undetermined. 

Renisha told News24 that they were satisfied with the inquest proceedings and had only wanted closure, following allegations of criminality and possible suicide.

'Undetermined'

AfriForum's Gerrie Nel, who took on the family's legal case pro bono, said the Jimmys had been briefed on how the inquest would proceed and were "content therewith", requesting to be excused from attending further.

Six expert witnesses had provided reports in which the origin and cause of the fire are explored.

Daniel Joubert, who was retained by the Jimmy family, inspected the vehicle and found it had been started by a wiring fault near the body control module (BCM) of the vehicle.

John Loud, the US-based expert hired by Ford to determine what happened to Jimmy's vehicle, said in his evidence that there was no evidence that anything in the vehicle’s electrical system had ignited the fire.

SAPS Captain Siyabonga Mangaba placed the origin at the passenger side dash area, in the vicinity of the BCM, identifying two wire ends which he believed caused arcing or faulting.

Loud traced these wires, which revealed two more conductors with melted ends, the position paper reads. The wires were determined to be very low power, high speed data signal connectors, which were not getting any significant power and were not capable of acting as a competent ignition source.

Ford's fire inspector Anthony Young initially identified the BCM power wires as the heat source but, after obtaining further information, revised it to "undetermined".

'There is a difference between training and experience'

Ford engineer James Engle filed three reports after the fire, all of which concluded that the cause was undetermined and that nether accidental not intentional causes could be ruled out.

Fire investigator Hendrik McLeod, who was cross-examined on Monday, found that the fire had started from a short circuit of the two power conductors to the BCM. Loud, however, excluded it as the heat source.

Loud said the area of origin was inside the passenger compartment. He conducted scientific laboratory tests of the suspected wires and there was no evidence to contradict the lab testing of the results determined, the paper reads.

He found the cause of the fire to be undetermined.

McLeod on Monday defended his findings, saying he was a fireman with practical experience who, this year alone, had responded to 15 electrical vehicle fires.

Loud, he said, was an engineer, acquainted with electrical systems.

"There is a difference between training and experience. Mr Loud didn't attend any fires; I attend them on a daily basis."

The inquest continues.

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