Durban - A sleeping toddler escaped with only cuts on his face and legs when a brick, thrown at the car while travelling on the N2, smashed the window and narrowly missed him, hitting his baby seat.
The brick was one of two thrown at his parents’ car from the side of the N2 near the Chatsworth turn-off.
The weekend attack on the Bartie family of Hillary was the fourth reported incident in the vicinity in five months, making the N2/Higginson Highway area a new “hell-run” for motorists.
Helen Bartie, 37, told the Daily News on Sunday that she had been driving the family’s Daihatsu Charade and had to avoid hitting the crash barriers after the two bricks were hurled at the vehicle.
Describing the ordeal from the family’s home, she said her husband, Craig, 42, was in the passenger seat, and her brother-in-law, Clint Bartie, 35, was in the back seat. Her son Jason, who turns 2 on Thursday, was asleep in his car seat.
They had left her friend’s 50th birthday party in eManzimtoti on Saturday afternoon and were about 200m from the Higginson Highway on-ramp when, she said, she saw two cars on the side of the road with their doors open and hazard lights flashing.
She said she reduced speed from 110km/h to 80km/h.
“When we passed them I heard two loud bangs in succession. The second one sounded like an explosion. We hunched in our seats instinctively waiting for another bang,” she said. “I held on to the steering and kept going. Had I not, we would have hit the crash barriers.”
“Jason woke up with a shock and began screaming. Glass pieces were all over him. My husband brought him to the front seat and soothed him. We were in shock,” Helen said.
She switched her hazard lights on, slowed down and the family checked themselves for blood or injuries.
“I don’t think we spoke on the trip home. I was petrified with the thought of someone following us.”
The first brick had struck the door pillar, leaving a dent and a brown mark. It was the second one that came even closer, smashing through the back passenger window next to a sleeping Jason.
Miraculously, the missile bounced off the child’s seat, but struck Clint on the back of his head, leaving him dazed.
The family were relieved that the child escaped with just the cuts from the flying pieces of glass.
“I used a small vacuum cleaner to suck up glass pieces in his clothes and hair. We also used a hairdryer to blow glass out from his hair,” Helen said.
“We treated his wounds. I think glass went into his mouth because there was blood inside.
“He had small cuts all over his face and in his mouth too, but we washed them and cleaned him up. We put him to bed after that.”
She said that they checked him again on Sunday morning and he appeared fine.
While traumatic, the incident has also left Helen despairing about the repair bill, as she does not have insurance.
She said she would report the matter to the police on Monday.
Since March there have been reports of four attacks on motorists near Higginson Highway.
Rothman Thusi, 24, was travelling on the N2 from Isipingo towards Avoca in March when a rock struck his VW Polo, hitting the bumper and headlight.
The same rock then struck the bonnet, windscreen and roof of the vehicle Elizabeth Archibald, 54, and her husband, George, 56, were travelling in.
All three were in shock but escaped unhurt.
In June, Juanita Swindon was also lucky to escape unharmed when a rock went through the windscreen of her Peugeot, landing on the passenger side.
For years the notorious stretch of the N2 between Umgababa and eMkhomazi on the South Coast was known as the “hell-run”. Motorists were warned by police not to travel there after dark after somebody dropped a 10kg rock on to a car from a bridge in 2002, killing a woman.
There had been several rock-throwing incidents along the 18km stretch and even after the Umgababa bridge was encased in mesh, rocks and stones were thrown from the side of the freeway.