A Pietermaritzburg family’s fight against time to get their very ill mother to a city hospital was abruptly halted when the vehicle they were travelling in hit a large pothole, puncturing two tyres.In the time it took Jabulani Hlongwane to try and get help as he was unable to drive the car, his 63-year-old mother-in-law could not hold on any longer and died.The tragic incident happened on the Old Howick Road at about 11.30 pm on Sunday. The family from Elandskop were en route to Grey’s Hospital with the woman who was suffering from a “severe stomach ache”.Speaking to The Witness on Wednesday, a bereaved Hlongwane said he was travelling with his wife and their 13-year-old son at the time of the incident.He said the family are devastated by the unfortunate turn of events, adding that had they arrived in hospital on time they believe that she would still be alive today. The woman was declared dead at the scene. “Who knows what could have happened had we arrived at the hospital on time? My family are struggling to deal with this situation,” Hlongwane told The Witness.Hlongwane said his mother-in-law fell ill on Sunday but they did not think that it was serious. However, on Sunday night, her condition deteriorated, and they decided to rush her to the hospital. “We thought she was just suffering from a mild stomach ache. “We didn’t think it was life threatening. We noticed that she seemed dehydrated and decided to rush her to the hospital,” he said.He said when he tried to negotiate the Old Howick Road curve in pitch darkness he hit the pothole, which is in the middle of the road.“I hit the pothole and came to a dead stop,” Hlongwane said.The impact punctured the front and back tyres on the left side of the vehicle.“Luckily, a patrolling security vehicle stopped to ask what had happened. The security guards told us that we were the second vehicle on the night to hit the pothole.”He told The Witness that the patrolling security vehicle called emergency services, who arrived at the scene shortly thereafter. “It was already too late. They tried to resuscitate her, but she was gone. I have never left so helpless in my life. “It’s painful that she died just minutes away from receiving the help she needed. She was so close to the hospital. My son has been left traumatised by the incident. “He is inconsolable,” he said.Hlongwane said after the funeral, the family intend to look into the possibility of pursuing legal action against Msunduzi Municipality.Wembley resident Julie Mahomes said she had cautioned the municipality numerous times about the condition of the road. “Since September 6, numerous e-mails and phone calls have fallen on deaf ears. Nobody in the municipality can say they are unaware of this. The road doubles as thoroughfare when the highway is closed and it is old and dangerous and its infrastructure is failing,” Mahomes said.“I shudder to think how many people have their vehicles damaged because of this road. This area has horrible mist and it is really dangerous, especially when it is raining.”Mahomes said almost on a daily basis, motorists have their car tyres damaged. “The municipal workers just come here and throw rubble in the hole and it gets washed away when it rains. It is ridiculous. “We pay close to R6 000 for rates, where is all this money going? What are we paying for? One life is one too many,” she said.Another irate resident, who asked to remain unnamed, said she had damaged four tyres in the last two months.Local attorney and resident, Sameera Cassimjee, said she also hit the same pothole two weeks ago.“You can barely see when it’s misty. What also compounds the problem is that the street lights are not working.”“The entire city is riddled with potholes. How does the municipality expect citizens to function or work in a place like this? Patching the potholes is not solving the problem. Our rates are equivalent to a second bond.”She was planning to sue the municipality for her tyre damage.