Tricky Sani Pass recovery took three toiling hours

By Nosipho Mngoma Time of article published Jul 20, 2018

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Sani Pass - A heavy duty construction vehicle had to be used to recover the vehicle which slid down an icy embankment at Sani Pass (as reported on Monday).

John Thompson, of JT Auto, said he was called in after the accident, in which Nathan and Brigitte Renalds’s Audi Q5 went off the road, and got lodged about 10m down a 100m slope at the mountain pass on Sunday.

It took John Thompson three hours to recover the vehicle that slid down an icy embankment.

He said that after doing an assessment on Monday, he went back on Tuesday to attempt the recovery with his tow truck.

“We managed to pull the car up some but the cable got stuck between two sharp rocks and snapped. I was in my Land Cruiser (tow truck) with my foot on the brake and the door open ready to jump out if the Audi pulled me with it.”

With over a decade of experience doing recoveries in the area, Thompson managed to keep both vehicles stable but had to abandon the mission that day.

On Wednesday he returned with the construction vehicle and chains, which he used to pull the Renalds’s vehicle up a few metres at a time.

“It is the biggest recovery I have had so far, toiling with it for almost three hours. But I got it on the road. There was a lot of damage underneath and one wheel was badly damaged.”

This was the wheel which had become lodged on a rock, stopping the Renaldses from sliding further down the steep drop to certain death.

Nathan Renalds, who was driving on Sunday, said they were aware of how badly things could have turned out had the wheel not been caught.

He told The Mercury he knew how challenging it was to drive in snow, which had helped him stay calm when he felt the tyres lose traction on the frozen road.

“It happened very quickly. I did my best to try to turn a corner but with no traction we ended up half on the road and half off. Had I been driving faster and had more momentum, we would have gone a lot further down.

“We realise how fortunate we are. When you are in the moment and you don’t know the outcome, a lot of things go through your mind, you’re scared and full of emotions.” Once the car stopped, the couple slowly got out, with the ­vehicle relatively stable, and had to climb up the slippery cliff on all fours, he said.

In the immediate aftermath of the ordeal, Nathan said they were shown great kindness and compassion by people who assisted them.

They spent that night at the Sani Pass Mountain Lodge.

Lodge spokesperson McCayla Warriker said they had a shuttle service for anyone who felt uncertain about driving up the pass.

“There are also countless tour operators in Underberg, who offer day trips up the pass. This is an awesome place to visit and if you’re going to drive yourself, you are ­welcome to contact us for back-up assistance with a ­motorbike.”

The Mercury

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