Pietermaritzburg - A student has admitted that he was responsible for the death of a Pietermaritzburg runner after falling asleep at the wheel.
Accountant Neil Robinson, 60, was killed in February last year.
On Thursday, in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court, DUT student Zandisile Ndaba, 21, pleaded guilty to culpable homicide.
Ndaba admitted to falling asleep at the wheel of his Hyundai Getz on the morning of February 9 last year in Alexandra Road, and hitting Robinson.
Robinson was jogging with his partner Lynn-Rae van den Berg at the time.
The couple were training for the Maritzburg Marathon.
Ndaba lost control of his vehicle and struck Robinson, who sustained massive injuries.
He died at the scene.
In his plea, Ndaba said his great-grandmother had passed away the week before the accident, and her funeral had been set for February 9.
The night before, on February 8, a wake was held for his great-grandmother at their family home in Sobantu.
Ndaba said he attended the wake which lasted the entire night.
“I went without sleep for the entire night. I last slept on February 7, 2013,” he said.
He explained that on the morning of February 9, which was the day of the funeral, he had a number of errands to run, including picking up his nephews and collecting his mother’s medication from a local pharmacy.
Ndaba said he was running late.
He said he was driving along Alexandra Road to go to the pharmacy at 8am. At the time, Ndaba noted there was no visible traffic on the road.
“As a result of there being no traffic, I drove in excess of the speed limit of 60km/h and was travelling at 90km/h,” he said.
“While exceeding the speed limit, I noticed at least one oncoming car on the opposite side of the road and far in the distance,” he said.
Ndaba said he was unable to account for the next few seconds and only recalled being aware of his car on the wrong side of the road, in the face of oncoming traffic.
He said he recalled faintly hearing hooting.
Ndaba said his only explanation was that he had briefly fallen asleep at the wheel and was awoken by the hooting.
He said he was dazed and startled but immediately took evasive action.
He reacted by swerving the car sharply back onto the correct side of the road.
In the process, the vehicle drifted too far to the left and in an attempt to correct this, he lost control of the car.
“In a desperate attempt to control the vehicle I wrestled with the steering and brakes but to no avail. Instinctively I bent down and braced myself for the impact,” said Ndaba.
He awoke in the driver’s seat and learnt later that he had struck a pedestrian.
“At no stage did I even see a pedestrian,” he said.
Ndaba suffered a concussion and broken clavicle in the accident.
At the time he had only had his driving licence for 11 months.
“I admit that the cause of this accident was my negligence. I drove a car under circumstances where I was tired and, in fact, fell asleep in the process.”
He also admitted to exceeding the speed limit.
“I am truly regretful over the loss of life as a result of my actions. This will weigh heavily on my conscience for the rest of my life.”
Sentencing was adjourned to November 24.