SAA pilot escapes N2 attempted robbery

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Independent Newspapers

File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Cape Town - An SAA pilot driving home towards central Cape Town after a late-night flight narrowly escaped a robbery on the N2, said to be the second such attack on the N2 highway in three days.

Archie Bell, a pilot with Fly SAA, became the target of an attempted robbery by six men on the N2 near the approach to Cape Town International Airport last Friday.

He said he had heard that two nights earlier an airport employee had been stabbed and robbed on the same stretch of road. This could not be confirmed.

In an e-mail to fellow pilots warning them of late-night attacks on the highway, Bell said he and pilot Tristan Gardner had left the airport at about 10.15pm. It was raining and visibility was poor. Gardner, who was driving about a kilometre ahead of Bell, saw - in his rear-view mirror - someone placing a cardboard box in the road. Bell said that because of the poor visibility, he spotted the box just before he hit it.

“I swerved to the right to go around the cardboard box, but could not go into the outer right-hand lane as three cars were overtaking me on the right. I hit the box with my left front wheel and my car got airborne as there was a concrete block in the box.”

The tyre was punctured and the rim was damaged, but Bell continued driving until he found a spot with better lighting and pulled over. He got out to inspect the damage, but saw six men coming down the airport off-ramp towards him. They were about 100m behind him when he got back into the car and locked the doors.

“My car accelerated slowly due to the damage to my front wheel and the suspension. The six men now started throwing half-bricks at my windows to try to smash them and gain access to the car. Fortunately I had fitted anti-smash-and-grab strengthening film to all my windows and they did not break. I put the car into 4x4 range and managed to accelerate and outrun the men.”

About 4km further on, Bell called the airport’s control centre, which phoned the police. Bell waited where he had stopped, but when the police failed to turn up, he called Gardner, who phoned for a tow truck and came to help him. Bell said he had heard that an airport employee had been stabbed and mugged after hitting an obstacle in the road and stopping on July 2.

Carl Hager, head of the security committee at the Air Line Pilots’ Association South Africa, said the incident involving Bell was being investigated. He said the association would meet next week to discuss the problem. Hager said he was not aware of the other incident, but would investigate.

Airports Company SA spokeswoman Deidre Davids said Bell’s experience had been reported to the police. “The N2 has been a concern to everyone. When there are blockages on the highway into and out of the airport precinct, we alert the media so they may inform the public.”

xolani.koyana@inl.co.za

Cape Times


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