And as the families try to support each other in their shared grief, they have hit out at the police for an investigator's insensitivity and failure to charge a suspect.
On Friday, August 25, Ismael Malick had been driving along Golf Club Terrace in Florida, approaching Ontdekkers Road having just picked up a group of teenagers from a farewell party for a classmate. In his nine-seater Hyundai H1 sat his wife and three daughters, but also Kyle and Keanu da Silva, the 16-year-old twin sons of Dexter and Pearly da Silva, and Liam Ganas, 15-year-old son of Manny Ganas.
Just moments before the collision, Manny had received a text message from Liam, saying he was just around the corner from home. Dexter had also just spoken with his children on the phone, the pair asking him to open up their home's gate so they could come inside just a few minutes later. But as Malick’s car crossed the Ontdekkers Road intersection, a speeding Volkswagen Microbus skipped a red robot and ploughed into the side of the Hyundai.
Speaking to the Saturday Star, Malick struggled to remember exactly the order of events directly after his car went spinning into the middle of the road. There was blood and glass strewn across the road and his panic mounted as he tried to take account of the injuries sustained by everyone in the car.
His daughter, Maleehah, 14, had broken her neck in two places, Kyle, Keanu and Liam were not moving. His wife had a shattered ankle, while his two other daughters had thankfully escaped serious injury.
Emergency Services arrived within a few minutes of the crash, along with a Community Policing Forum team that inspected the Microbus, where empty beer cans were spotted. Three passengers were removed with the jaws of life from the twisted chassis of the Microbus and taken to hospital to have their serious injuries treated immediately.
The Da Silvas, Malicks and Ganases have spent the past three weeks trying to piece together exactly what happened to the suspected drunken driver and his two passengers, in between funeral arrangements for Maleehah, Kyle, Keanu and Liam.
For Pearly and Dexter, Kyle and Keanu - both aspiring sportsmen and good students - were their only children. “These were four beautiful children who had bright futures. I thanked God for our children. Now this person has taken away everything from us. We'll never be grandparents. Our lives revolved around those kids,” Pearly said.
Ismael told the Saturday Star his family was still traumatised from the accident, his wife in physical and emotional pain and his two surviving daughters unable to sleep after witnessing the terrifying scene after the crash.
“It feels like I've lost a part of my body. Like my organs have been removed. I don't know how else to describe it,” said Manny.
But beyond the grief of losing their children, Ismael, Dexter and Pearly said they had suffered at the hands of the police, with an investigating officer who has consistently given them conflicting information.
When Pearly approached the warrant officer on Friday last week, he informed her two of the people in the Microbus, including the suspected drunk driver, had been discharged from hospital. She said when she asked if driver had been criminally charged, the officer said he didn't know where the driver was and that he was unable to get in contact with him.
When Ismael approached the officer on Monday, the officer told him the two passengers had been discharged from hospital. But when both families consolidated their information, they had been unable to get hold of the officer for days for clarification, as he would either turn off his phone or hang up on them.
Pearly has also claimed the same warrant officer had insisted she come to the police station every day because he refused to call her. And when she tried to ask why he had failed to charge the suspect, he allegedly became verbally abusive with her, telling her she must go to church instead of bothering him.
The families have also claimed that blood samples were not taken at the scene of the accident, meaning it may be difficult for the blood alcohol level of the accused to be proven in court, despite witnesses on the scene claiming they could smell the alcohol in the car.
“Not only is he (the investigating officer) unhelpful, he doesn't care about our grief. He hasn't communicated with us... The driver needs to be charged. We want justice,” said Manny.
Provincial police spokesperson, Captain Kay Makhubele, the case would be investigated first but would have to be taken to a prosecutor for a decision on whether to charge the driver. “In these cases where people are taken to hospital we wait until they (are) recovered. Then we start our investigation by obtaining statements,” he said.
The suspect would receive a warning statement before the docket was taken to court. Makhubele said if blood samples had not been taken on the night of the incident, this would be investigated.
South Africans Against Drunk Driving said it was common for officers to bungle such investigations and the failure to take blood within two hours of a crash is one of the reasons why drunk driving conviction rates sit below 7%.
The organisation's spokesperson and social worker, Philli Smit, told the Saturday Star police often don't take blood samples and once the cases end up in court, the perpetrators are often represented by private attorneys who can exploit bungled police investigations for not-guilty verdicts.
Now as the families await justice, Dexter said he wanted people who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol to remember “it's plain stupidity”.
“One drunk driver has changed our lives so drastically. He's taken everything from us. We'll never be the same.”