DURBAN - The deaths of two cyclists on the M4 freeway scared the families of Durban cyclists so much that several have given up the sport.
Greg Alberts, of Cyclesphere Cycling in Morningside, who was at the sentencing yesterday of Omesh Ramnarain to 10 years’ imprisonment for the deaths of Jarred Dwyer and Richard da Silva, said the tragedy had had a lasting effect on Durban’s cycling community.
“It highlighted how vulnerable cyclists are on the roads. We know that cyclists are not always in the right, but the roads are used by many different types of vehicles and we all have to have patience,” said Alberts.
“After the incident, however, I’ve had cyclists come in to sell their bikes because their wives and families did not want them cycling on the roads any more, fearing they would also have a similar incident.
“The cycling community works hard with the city, though, to make it safer on the roads, because this culture of commuting is being promoted around the world.”
One of the measures some cyclists have implemented since the crash in February 2016 was to have a “follow-up” car in tow, to follow a group of cyclists.
“We welcome the sentencing in the matter. I feel that justice has been served. It’s been very difficult for the families of everyone involved,” said Alberts.
Ramnarain was convicted on two counts of culpable homicide for the deaths of Dwyer and Da Silva, and yesterday magistrate Anand Maharaj sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment for each count, to run consecutively.
Leave to appeal was granted. His bail application was refused.
In addition, Ramnarain’s driver’s licence was suspended for one year.
Maharaj said Ramnarain’s negligent conduct on the road had caused “immense pain to the families of both deceased”.
Ramnarain had left a nightclub in his vehicle in the early hours of February 7, 2016, and at about 5am crashed into the cyclists on the M4 freeway.
Before Maharaj handed down sentence, Da Silva’s wife, Sonya, took to the stand and said the death of her partner of 26 years was a “nightmare” she could not wake up from.
“No one should have to say goodbye to a broken body covered in a silver foil blanket on a hard, cold road,” she said.
She added that justice had only partially been served.
“I was there, I saw how drunk you were that morning you disregarded the lives of anyone else who may have crossed your path,” she said.
Leigh Dwyer, Jarred’s mother, did not mince her words in her victim impact statement.
“The Bible says that we must forgive those who hurt us. Mr Ramnarain, I am perfectly willing to spend eternity in hell if I have to, but I will never forgive you for taking my son’s life,” she said between tears.
Ramnarain - also in tears - apologised for his actions and asked the families for their forgiveness.
In sentencing him, Maharaj said the mindset of drivers needed to change.
“The loss of lives on South African roads beggars belief. There must come a time when the mindsets of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists need to change. Importantly, it’s the driver that bears the brunt of the final responsibility,” he said.
Maharaj said if Ramnarain had pleaded guilty and taken the court into his confidence at the beginning of the trial, it would have believed that he was truly remorseful.
Da Silva’s mother said she was grateful for the outcome.
Outside court, Joyce Madlala, one of Da Silva’s employees, who found herself without a job after his death, described him as a good, humble man who treated all employees equally.
“Whether you were black, white or Indian, to Mr Da Silva everyone was equal. During the festive season, he made sure we all received our equal bonuses and the level of respect he had was amazing.
“It’s a shame, because the world needs more people like Mr Da Silva,” said Madlala.
Ramnarain’s family were very emotional and did not wish to comment.