Kimberley - The close-knit community of Warrenvale in Warrenton is still trying to deal with the tragic loss of five people who were killed when a planned fishing trip ended in tragedy after the bakkie they were travelling in overturned.
Ten people were in the vehicle, which rolled after the driver swerved to avoid a cow.
They were on their way to Spitskop Dam when the accident happened on Thursday evening.
Five people, Thomas Barker, 36, Manuel Jacobs, 18, Ronald Soetmelk, 36, Japie Andrews, 62, and Grant Ross, were killed in the accident, while five others, Leisha Eduards, her brother Lerrin, Herbert du Plessis, Brandon Barker and Angus Kruger, survived.
One of the five survivors, Herbert du Plessis, whose brother, Ronald Soetmelk, was killed, on Tuesday recalled the horrific accident that has changed his life forever.
Du Plessis said that Andrews, who was driving the bakkie, tried to swerve to avoid hitting a cow in the road.
“We left Warrenvale after 6pm on Thursday. Ronald, Lerrin, Brandon, Grant, Manuel, Leisha and I were sitting in the back of the bakkie. The canoe we were going to use for fishing was also in the back. Oom Japie was driving the bakkie and there was a cow standing in the road. Oom Japie swerved to avoid hitting the cow. He, however, lost control of the bakkie and it rolled several times,” said Du Plessis.
He said that some of the passengers were thrown from the bakkie.
“It felt like we were thrown from the bakkie the moment it started rolling. I ended up in the road. I got up and walked two steps but then fell to the ground. I could not see where my brother was.
“A friend of mine, Lerrin Eduards, walked to me and we went to look for his sister, Leisha We lay in the road with Leisha, who was moaning from pain. Lerrin got up and started looking for other survivors. He used his cellphone as a light. He came back after a few moments and again lay next to me and softly told me that my brother did not make it.”
Du Plessis added that other motorists, who came upon the accident, cordoned off the road until emergency services arrived.
“The people who drove past luckily saw us lying in the road and stopped the cars and trucks from driving over us. An ambulance from Jan Kempdorp was first on the scene. Lerrin and I had to wait for a second ambulance which was dispatched from Warrenton.”
Du Plessis sustained a broken arm and back injuries and his arm was operated on at the Kimberley Hospital.
Du Plessis and Soetmelk’s sister, Beverley Kitims, explained that she had to drive to Hartswater to identify their brother’s body.
“When we arrived at the scene, the bodies had already been taken away and we had to go to Hartswater to identify my brother (Soetmelk). He had a hole in his head and his neck was broken. One of his ears had been ripped from his head,” Kitims recalled tearfully.
Barker’s mother, Yvonne Barker, recalled the last hours she spent with her son before he left for the fishing trip.
She said that she never imagined that it would be last time she would see her son alive.
“Thomas and I were very close. On the afternoon of the accident, I took a nap in my room and Thomas came to lie with me later that afternoon. He had his phone with him and we listened to what the people were talking about on the community WhatsApp group. We were laughing as we recognised the voices in the voice clips. I told him that I had to get ready for church and he said that he was going to go. That was the last time I saw him alive,” said a weeping Yvonne.
She added that she feared the worst when she received news about the accident.
“The wife of the local ambulance driver came to tell us that Thomas was involved in an accident. I immediately felt my stomach turn. We rushed to the scene and everything happened so fast. The scene looked like a mess. I saw emergency vehicles and lights were flashing. I started asking for my son.
“I saw his body was covered with a space blanket. I prayed for strength as I made my way to his body. Thomas was lying on his back. He had one sneaker on his foot and the other one was lying next to him. His face was bloody and his legs were crossed. I knelt down beside him and as I looked around I could see the body of the driver.
“Emergency workers took us away from the bodies. After the bodies were removed from the scene I saw a pool of blood where Thomas had been lying. I went over and used my head scarf to clean up his blood. I could not leave the blood of my child just lying in the street.”
Through her tears, Yvonne said that she was struggling to come to terms with her son’s death.
“Your husband can die and you can survive that. However, when your child dies, it is impossible to explain the pain you experience. We will have to accept that it was his time to go ... but if I knew it was the last time I would see him, I would have stopped him from going,”
Jacobs’ sister, Antonia Balie, said that she only found out the next morning that her brother had died.
“We heard about the accident but did not even know Manuel was involved. A community member came to inform us that Manuel was transported to Jan Kempdorp Hospital. We enquired from the local paramedic, who was at the scene, about Manuel’s condition and he said that he was all right. We later heard that he was transferred to Kimberley Hospital.
“We were planning on leaving for Kimberley on Friday morning but a woman came to us early that morning, saying that Manuel was not going to make it. We rushed to KH and the doctors informed us that he was brain dead.
“Manuel was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and the doctors indicated that there was nothing they could do for him. He died later that afternoon,” said Balie.
The families of the deceased said that there would be a combined memorial service on Thursday. They added that they were waiting for the autopsies to be concluded to finalise dates for the funerals.
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