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Hunting trip goes wrong when amateur shoots professional hunter

Western Cape High Court.

Western Cape High Court.

Published May 27, 2022

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Cape Town - Amateur hunter, Johan Coetzee, has been ordered to pay compensation to professional hunter, Izak Rust, after he shot Rust in the foot which resulted in a below-the-knee amputation.

The order was made in the Western Cape High Court this week, years after the incident in July, 2014, when it was a matter of life and death for Rust who had to undergo the amputation after he was shot in the foot with his own hunting rifle.

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While on a hunting trip with his family at a farm in the Eastern Cape, Rust had rented his Ruger M77 Mk 2 calibre 30-06 Springfield to Coetzee, and had argued that Coetzee - who had never handled a rifle or hunted before - was negligent as he handled the rifle recklessly.

“(Coetzee) handled the loaded rifle with reckless disregard for the plaintiff’s safety; failed to adhere to the plaintiff’s express instructions; closed the bolt of the loaded rifle before the tripod was fully set up and before the target was in his sight; failed to keep a proper lookout; failed to point the rifle in a safe direction; put his finger on the trigger before he was ready to fire; failed to ensure that he was positioned in front of the plaintiff when he closed the bolt of the rifle; and failed to avoid the incident when he could and should have done so,” court documents read.

However, Coetzee averred that the rifle was defective and it was Rust who was negligent.

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“The rifle discharged due to an internal malfunction and/or that the particular round of ammunition involved in the incident, which was provided to him by Rust, was defective,” court documents read.

Coetzee who denied having pulled the trigger or having his finger on the trigger, further pleaded, among other reasons, that the incident was caused by the sole negligence of Rust in that he gave an express instruction to load the rifle at a time when it was inopportune to do so and failed to take into account the Coetzee’s inexperience with firearms.

“When Rust spotted a herd of wildebeest, he instructed the Coetzee to ‘kap toe’ (slam down) the bolt. At this stage Rust was slightly in front and to the left of him. When (Coetzee) slammed down the bolt, a shot must have gone off. He denies pulling the trigger. In furtherance of this version, it was the defendant’s case the rifle had an internal malfunction,” court documents read.

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Rust, who had moved to set up the tripod for the rifle, however said he “would never have instructed a client to ‘kap toe’ the rifle as it would scare the animals away and was simply not done that way”.

Western Cape High Court acting Judge Alma de Wet said: “(Coetzee’s) version of events is in my view also not probable. While I do accept that it was not his intention to cause Rust harm, the most probable conclusion on a balance of probabilities and considering the evidence, is that Coetzee, who was tired and relatively inexperienced, after chambering a round as instructed by Rust, closed the bolt, placed his finger on the trigger and pulled the trigger whilst pointing the rifle in the direction of Rust who was busy setting up the tripod for him.”

Cape Times

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