Cape Town - It was meant to be a night of celebration for Rushaan Nero when she made it into the top 20 of the Spring Queen competition, but hours later the teenager lost her grandmother and aunt in a gruesome accident.
The Nero family of Parkwood were left reeling after the tragedy in the early hours of Sunday.
They were returning from the competition when, police allege, two dicing drivers caused the crash on the M5, just before the Kenilworth off-ramp.
Four people died and 12 others were injured. Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said they were still investigating.
Witnesses said a Mercedes-Benz and a Volvo were dicing on the M5 and it appeared they had forced the taxi off the road.
Rushaan, 18, who works for Medac in Diep River, was still wearing the sparkly red dress she wore during the pageant and was excited after being named one of the top 20 finalists.
The family had hired the taxi to go to watch her on stage.
Rushaan’s grandmother Christine Nero, 76, her aunt Diane Marais, 52, a cousin’s wife, Annalise Louw, 50, and Louw’s daughter’s boyfriend, Vincent Johnson, 20, were killed instantly.
Marais and the Neros lived in Parkwood and Louw and Johnson in Eersterivier.
With tears welling, Nero said her grandmother and aunt had hugged and congratulated her and Marais had promised to make her a dress for next year’s competition.
“Those were the last words, the last hugs,” she said.
“I saw sparks coming from the wheel and the driver lost control.”
Most of the taxi passengers were flung from the vehicle and Christine landed on the grass next to her granddaughter. Johnson fell on top of Rushaan Nero.
They were both dead.
Johnson’s girlfriend, Lee-Talia Louw, has a two-month-old baby.
Co-driver Keagan Stewart, 26, was sitting in front of the taxi when he felt it being knocked.
The driver lost control and the taxi rolled, knocking out the windscreen. Stewart jumped out and landed in a ditch before the taxi rolled again.
His right collarbone was broken.
Stewart said the taxi he had been driving had broken down on the way back from taking the family to the Good Hope Centre. He had arranged for another taxi to collect them and he had acted as co-driver.
“I feel so bad,” he said on Monday. “It is not a nice feeling; I know the family well,” he said.
Rushaan’s mother, Brenda, who was also in the taxi, said they were still coming to terms with the deaths.
“My mother was a wonderful woman and helped wherever she could, my sister was the best sister in the world,” she said.
She said she was particularly heartsore for Lee-Talia Louw, who had given birth two months ago.
“She lost her mother and her boyfriend.”
On Monday, most of the family congregated at Christine’s Parkwood home, many wearing bandages, their arms in slings, their faces swollen and scratched.