'I don't want my son's death to be in vain'

By Tania Broughton Time of article published Feb 1, 2007

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The mother of Durban cyclist Mark Hegedus, 34, who died after being hit by a car on the M19 last August, said on Wednesday that she did not want revenge against the motorist responsible.

"All I want is for him to say sorry. Nothing will bring my son back, but I hope that by raising awareness of what happened, lives will be saved. I don't want his death to have been in vain," Elaine de Jager said.

De Jager spoke to The Mercury outside the Pinetown magistrate's court, where Michael Yendi pleaded guilty to culpable homicide in connection with the accident, which also left Hegedus's friend, David Tyler, 34, severely injured.

In his plea read out by attorney EP Nzama, Yendi said he had been driving along the M19 and had noticed two cyclists riding in tandem in the emergency lane.

"I momentarily took my eyes off the road and suddenly collided with them," he said.

In mitigation of sentence, the court heard that Yendi was a retired teacher, but worked part-time for a school book supplier. He had got his driving licence in 1958 and had never been involved in an accident.

However, prosecutor Juanita van der Berg said the offence was serious and prevalent and Yendi should lose his driver's licence.

"There have been numerous newspaper reports on such incidents. There have even been protests.

"He was an only child and his parents are taking it hard, as is his wife," she said.

Magistrate TZ Nkosi referred the matter to the regional court for sentencing, which will take place on Thursday.

The accident sparked a massive protest by cyclists and accelerated the eThekwini Council's plans to create dedicated cycle lanes.

De Jager said her son and Tyler had been best friends for 17 years, had married sisters and had been best man at each other's weddings.

Hegedus's widow, Tanya, who was also in court, said: "Every day is an uphill battle. I have no choice but to cope. This court case really doesn't make any difference."

Her sister, Bernadette, who is married to David, said he was still battling to cope with his injuries which had left him in a coma for two weeks and in hospital for six weeks.

The couple's attorney, Michael Friedman, who is handling their claim against the Road Accident Fund, said that David, a sales manager, had returned to work but was not working to the same capacity.

"He is still undergoing therapy and trying to adjust to his situation," he said.

Also in court on Wednesday was cyclist Gordon Gillespie who, after the accident, had formed an organisation called "the safe passing organisation". He said so far the council had only provided 6,3-kilometre of cycle path, but his organisation wanted that extended to include roads between Pietermaritzburg and Durban and roads between Scottburgh and Ballito.

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