Tragedy blamed on heart attack

2019-11-28 15:15
Anastasio Peyios faces eight counts of culpable homicide. PHOTO: kerushun pillay

Anastasio Peyios faces eight counts of culpable homicide. PHOTO: kerushun pillay

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The driver who allegedly ploughed into a car, killing eight members of a Northdale family in January last year, says he cannot remember the incident because of a persistent heart condition.

Anastasios Peyios (65) says he was driving to hospital after suddenly feeling chest pains on the night of the incident in January last year and “became disoriented”.

He is facing eight counts of culpable homicide for killing Loraine Rampersad, her daughter Veroshnie Mahabeer, Veroshni’s husband Mitchell and the couple’s four children — Titus (3), Leah (6), Hannah (7) and Isabella (11) — in an accident near Umzumbe on the south coast.

Peyios faces another charge of driving under the influence and one of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly interfering with witnesses.

The family died on impact.

Peyios said in a not guilty plea before the Port Shepstone regional court that he was diagnosed with a serious heart condition in 2011 and takes chronic medication.

On the night of the incident, he suffered a “severe unexpected” chest pain and believed he might be having a heart attack.

He said he took some medication and momentarily lost control of his vehicle, but then gained full control.

He claims he then began to head to the Hibiscus Private Hospital “as a matter of urgency”.

“Not far from Port Shepstone I noticed an approaching vehicle suddenly beginning to encroach my side of the freeway. At the same time I suffered another onset of chest pains and became disoriented.”

Peyios says he is unable to recall what happened thereafter, save that he was injured in the accident.

He denied having been reckless or negligent in the incident and denied being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Peyios made an appearance at the Port Shepstone regional court yesterday, where state witness Thandeka Shelembe, a Road Traffic Inspectorate officer, was cross examined by Peyios’ advocate Gideon Scheltema, SC.

According to media reports, Shelembe had previously alleged that Peyios was over the alcohol limit and tested 0,91mg per 1000 ml of breath on the breathalyser test, whereas the legal breath alcohol limit is less than 0,24mg in 1 000 ml of breath.

But on Wednesday Scheltema raised with the court that two sworn statements Shelembe made regarding the incident were “contradictory”.

Shelembe also admitted under examination that some evidence she told the court did not appear in her statement to police, such as Peyios allegedly being so under the influence of alcohol that he struggled to do the breathalyser properly.

Shelembe later invoked her right, as per the Criminal Procedure Act, to refuse to answer a line of questioning regarding one of her statements because she could later be accused of perjury.

This was on the basis that her evidence in that statement was a “screening statement” where brief details of the incident are captured but allegedly contradicted her evidence in court and in her other affidavit, according to Scheltema.

Shelembe was unable to answer questions regarding the precise time the breathalyser results were obtained.

Scheltema also raised possible contradictions surrounding Shelembe’s evidence that a police officer she had given the breathalyser reading to, a constable NP Cele, was even present on scene at the time Shelembe wrote in her affidavit.

Scheltema said Peyios deny that Cele was on scene at the time.

Magistrate BJ King adjourned the matter to January. Shelembe may be recalled should further evidence be required.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court accident

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