KZN motorist sentenced to 10 years cleared of killing 2 cyclists following appeal

2019-10-12 12:46
Omesh Ramnarain.

Omesh Ramnarain. (Tania Broughton, News24, file)

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A Durban motorist who was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for killing two cyclists on the M4 in 2016, has been cleared on appeal.

Omesh Ramnarain was convicted of two counts of culpable homicide, for the deaths of cyclists Richard da Silva and Jarred Dwyer, in the Durban Regional Court in May 2018.

News24 previously reported that Ramnarain had left a nightclub at about 05:00 and, according to witnesses, was travelling at high speed when he crashed into the two cyclists who were at the back of a pack of cyclists on a recreational ride.

During his trial, the State alleged that he had been drunk at the time. Ramnarain claimed he only had four Hunters Gold beers and was not under the influence of alcohol.

While several witnesses testified that they had smelled alcohol on his breath, a blood sample was taken more than two hours after the legal time limit and Durban Regional Court Magistrate Anand Maharaj acquitted him of a charge of driving under the influence.

Also read: Durban cyclists were chatting, laughing before deadly crash, court hears

"The number of people who lose their lives in road accidents in this country is unacceptably high… it's beyond comprehension. I believe this case is an opportunity to impose an exemplary sentence… to warn potential offenders that this is what could happen to them if they behave negligently," Maharaj said at the time.

Ramnarain's version was that he had been driving at 100km/h behind another vehicle which blocked his view when it suddenly swerved off the road on to an off-ramp. Moments later he heard a thud, his windscreen shattered, and then another thud.

He said he had not seen the cyclists at all.

Cleared on both counts

However, on Friday, judges Kate Pillay and Muzikawukhelwana Ncube cleared him on both counts. Pillay and Ncube found that his version of events did not indicate negligence, as he was the only witness who could testify about the actual collision and that his actions were in line with what any reasonable driver may have done in the circumstances, according to Times Live.

Pillay and Ncube accepted that it was possible Ramnarain’s vision had been impaired due to a rock having been thrown at his windscreen.

Ramnarain’s testimony stated that he had heard a bang and his windscreen had shattered. He pulled over to the emergency lane on his left, as he could no longer see through the windscreen, when he heard a second bang. He believed someone had thrown something at the car. Once out of his car, he noticed a person and a bicycle lying in front on his car, with a second cyclist behind the vehicle, according to The Independent.

A rock was found inside Ramnarain's car.

In the written ruling, the judges said it was common cause that cyclists were not allowed on that part of the M4 and that a "reasonable driver" would not have expected to see them there.

The judges found that there were no eyewitnesses and that the magistrate had decided the case on Ramnarain's version of events, but had rejected the possibility that a rock had hit the windscreen. This theory was supported by a witness, who said she saw two young men running away from the scene, the judges added.

The judges said any reasonable driver, faced with an emergency, would have swerved into the emergency lane on the left, not expecting cyclists to be there. They added that in criminal cases the onus is on the State to prove the guilt of the accused person beyond a reasonable doubt.

 - Compiled by Nicole McCain

Read more on:    durban  |  courts  |  accidents
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