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Johannesburg - A Joburg metro police department officer is fighting for his life in hospital after a BMW caught doing 243km/h ploughed into four cars on Sunday morning.
Another JMPD officer witnessed the crash, and was showered with glass in the process. He said it was the most frightened he’d been in his 28-year career.
At about 9am, 28-year-old JMPD officer Renaldo Rygard climbed into his unmarked vehicle to plug his cellphone into the car’s lighter as he waited for the speedster to come around the corner.
Seconds later, he would be unconscious and trapped inside the car as emergency services were called to airlift him to hospital from the scene on the N1 North near Lenasia.
This is because the silver BMW had just hit the car carrying a family of three before the driver lost control and smashed into three JMPD vehicles as officers waited to ticket him.
“I’d given him my cellphone charger and he had just got back into the vehicle. I don’t even think he had time to plug it in,” said officer Johan van den Berg.
He had pulled his car onto the grass island between the N1 North and South, and was waiting to put his blue lights and siren on to give chase if needed.
“As I looked in my rear-view mirror, I knew he wasn’t going to slow down,” said Van den Berg.
Van den Berg’s car was showered with pieces of glass from the collisions, even though his vehicle was on the other side of the road and about 10m away.
“You can see the scratches on the car,” he said.
Rygard is in the intensive care unit at Netcare Milpark Hospital, where he is in a coma.
“From what the doctor says, his neck has been broken in two places,” said his aunt Grace Job, speaking from the hospital.
She said he had also suffered head injuries, but the family were optimistic that he had not suffered any paralysis as he had apparently moved his arm.
“They will decide once the swelling is down whether they will operate,” said Job.
“While the firemen used the Jaws Of Life to free the injured man, medics had to clamber into the wreckage to stabilise him while they were waiting for the Netcare medical helicopter with a trauma team on board,” said Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha.
The BMW driver had injuries that were not serious, Botha said, while the driver of the first car that was hit had minor injuries.
JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar said the driver of the BMW was taken to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital.
“He’ll be charged with reckless and negligent driving and for excessive speed as soon as he’s released from hospital,” said Minnaar, who could not name the driver as he had not yet been formally charged.
Traffic along the N1 North was diverted to the R554 as police cleared the scene as late as noon.
The road was covered in shards of glass, while the wind blew car parts around as tow trucks loaded up the smashed JMPD vehicles.
Van den Berg said he and Rygard were “always working together” and he was shaken by what had happened to his partner. “In 28 years in the police it’s the first time I got such a fright,” he said.