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Durban - As her three-year-old son lay on the pavement fighting for his life, Amanzimtoti mother Suzette Ratcliffe says the driver who allegedly caused the car crash shouted at her that the accident was not his fault.
Ratcliffe was testifying in the trial of Robert Gilmore in the Durban Regional Court on Friday.
The case then took an unusual turn during cross-examination when Ratcliffe, who had her own advocate present to advise her, refused to answer certain questions regarding child safety and airbags which could incriminate her.
Her son William, who died of his injuries, had been seated in the front seat of her BMW at the time of the crash.
Gilmore, 63, has been charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder and reckless and negligent driving in connection with the August 2012 crash.
He has also been charged with failing to perform the duties of a driver after an accident in accordance with the Road Traffic Act.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The State alleges that Gilmore was three times over the legal alcohol limit when he drove his beach buggy through the intersection of Kingsway and Old Main Road, crashing into Ratcliffe’s BMW.
William died in hospital soon after the accident.
Ratcliffe and her two-year-old son, James, survived the crash.
Recalling the accident on Friday, Ratcliffe said she had been returning home after fetching her children from school.
“The accused was at the intersection and he was turning into my path of travel.
“I took evasive action and the front left of my vehicle hit the back of his beach buggy.
“The airbags deployed and the car filled with smoke.”
Ratcliffe said after she opened her car door, she saw William slumped in the front seat.
She said while she was telling a relative about the accident on her cellphone, Gilmore shouted that he had not “jumped the red robot”.
“He was very angry and trying to defend his actions. I told him how can you stand there and tell me that when my child is lying there.”
She added that she believed that Gilmore had tried to run away from the scene, but was stopped by tow truck drivers.
During cross-examination, Gilmore’s attorney, Carl van der Merwe, asked Ratcliffe whether she was aware that car manufacturers advised that children under 12 years old should not sit on the front seats of their vehicles.
Ratcliffe declined to answer.
Van der Merwe said experts he had consulted believed that the post mortem report showed that William had “airbag and seatbelt injuries”.
Ratcliffe said she had not seen the report.
The case was adjourned to February when an inspection will be done at the accident scene.