Bridge crash: how their lives were changed

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Copy of NM Gillian and Conner (40331415) THE MERCURY Gillian Bell and her son, Connor, 8, were killed in an accident on Athlone Bridge in Durban three years ago.

Durban - Emotionally disabled.

That is how Jason Bell, who lost his wife, Gillian, and eight-year-old son, Connor, in the crash caused by disbarred lawyer Bashan Naicker, describes himself.

“Memories which should be happy times are now painful ones which cause my whole being to hurt. My insides ache. I heat up and my throat swells when remembering these special times spent. This is my wheelchair,” he says.

Bell has not attended Naicker’s many court appearances over the past three years. But he has now poured his heart out in a victim impact statement handed to Durban regional court magistrate Blessing Msani yesterday before Naicker’s sentencing this morning.

He attached photographs of Connor and Gillian and Connor with his two sisters to his statement, which he makes under oath and on behalf of the entire extended family.

Of that day, Saturday, March 26 2011 when “everything changed”, he said Gillian had gone to work at Flight Centre and had fetched Connor from a party. They were late and he got an “uneasy feeling”.

Copy of NM_Carmen Hunter (40331414) Carmen Hunter THE MERCURY

Her phone went to voicemail and he decided to go and find her, tracing the route back towards the party.

“When I approached the Athlone Bridge and saw the police had blocked off the road, my heart sank.

Bell said he asked an officer if a white VW Polo had been involved in the accident because he was looking for his wife an child.

“… Without saying much he proceeded to let me through the barrier and I drove up on to the bridge,”he said.

“That was when I found out that Connor and Gill had died.”

“The pain from the loss never goes away and can be compared to living with a disability. Seeing DPHS boys in school uniform, a Sharks rugby match, Coco Pops, cauliflower with cheese sauce, Ben 10, and so on all trigger remembrances and my pain surfaces, it is my prosthesis.”

He said the prolonged road to justice had caused further emotional trauma and asked why it took Naicker two-and-a-half years to plead guilty.

He said it was extremely difficult to explain to his daughters why the man who killed their mom and brother had not yet been punished.

“We pray that for us at least the sentencing can close one traumatic chapter of this tragic story which is now our lives.”

Trevor Martin

Trevor Martin says not a day goes by when he doesn’t count himself lucky that his two young daughters are alive.

They were travelling with a family friend on that day and, while seriously injured, he believed they were spared because of their seatbelts.

“In my 41 years, March 26, 2011, remains the worst day I have ever experienced,” he said in his victim impact report.

He said he believed his daughters, Jenna, who was six, and Kayla, who was three, both lost their innocence in the accident and still suffer psychological scars.

Physically they both suffered fractured pelvises, Jenna taking about six months to heal but Kayla much longer because she had to learn to walk again.

He said no children should go through what they had.

Wendy Hunter

“Our lives have changed forever and nothing will change the fact that we will never have Carmen back. We are so sorry that the other families are enduring the same pain and grief.”

These are the words of Wendy Hunter, mom of Carmen, 19, “a gentle child”, who had moved to Durban from Empangeni a year before the accident to pursue her dream of becoming a dance teacher.

In her victim impact statement handed in to court, Wendy Hunter said she was travelling back from Mooi River with her son when she got the call from a Metro police officer saying Carmen had been in an accident and to please come to the Athlone Bridge.

“I knew from the tone of his voice, I knew the outcome.”

Her mom, Carmen’s granny, got there first and broke the news to her.

The family was shattered and the grief continues to hit them all at different times, she said.

“We, as parents, just don’t have the motivation to get out of bed sometimes. We have days when we are continuously tired. Our son has the burden of his mom when it should be the other way round, the parents consoling the child,” she said.

The Mercury

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