Driver charged after Plush muso's death

Time of article published Sep 19, 2005

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By Sherilissa Peters and Kuben Chetty

A former top Comrades Marathon personality has been charged with culpable homicide and drunken driving after the killing of talented Pietermaritzburg musician Chas Smit.

A former Maritzburg College pupil, Smit was the popular front man for the band Plush, which he formed 10 years ago with fellow student Rory Elliot.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Colin Govender said that the 51-year-old woman was allegedly found to be over the legal limit for alcohol and blood was drawn from her at the scene.

She will appear in the Pietermaritzburg magistrate's court on Monday.

"We are urging all drivers not to get behind the wheel of a car after having consumed even one drink. Tragic situations like this can be avoided," he said.

The band had just finished playing a gig in the early hours of Sunday morning at the Winston Churchill Theatre in Scottsville that represented the first leg of a national tour, and were on their way to a club, Crowded House in Commercial Road, when the accident occurred.

Smit was crossing the road with band mates when the suspect allegedly slammed into him. The national brand manager for Varsity College was on her way home from a College ball.

Onlookers said the impact was so great that Smit was thrown into the air and landed metres away from the car.

Passerby Neveshen Naidoo, who was leaving Crowded House just after the accident, said it was awful to see Smit lying in the middle of the road.

"I think his parents had just arrived on the scene and they were obviously traumatised. It was a wretched thing to witness," Naidoo said.

A colleague of the suspect, who declined to be named, said that the suspect was one of the most responsible people she had ever met.

"We support her 100 percent. This was just such a terrible tragedy for everyone concerned," she said.

Elliot said that he was still in shock and could not believe that Smit was gone. "He was like a brother to me.

I am not sure what the future holds for me, or for the band. I will have to think about it and what Chas would have wanted," he said.

Smit's parents, Mike and Caro, are still coming to terms with their son's death and declined to speak to the media.

A family member described Smit as a "dynamic, talented and big-hearted young man with the world at his feet".

Andrea Arbuckle, freelance journalist and close friend of the band, described Smit's death as a shock for the whole music fraternity.

"He was a fantastic musician and the band really made Pietermaritzburg proud."

Arbuckle said Smit and Elliot met at Maritzburg College and realised they liked each other's music.

"Rory was two years ahead of Chas and when Chas finished school they formed Plush."

Arbuckle said in 2002 the band won the RP Emerging Sounds battle of the bands contest and were well on their way to establishing themselves on the SA music scene.

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