KwaZulu-Natal - Only eight months after her wedding to cycling great Burry Stander, his wife, Cherise, will attend her husband’s funeral this week.
The 25-year-old cycling ace was killed when he was hit by a minibus taxi while cycling in Shelly Beach on Thursday.
In a statement issued on social media on Saturday, an emotional Cherise said the last words her husband spoke were to confirm his love for her.
Stander was returning from a training ride on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast when he was hit by the minibus taxi.
“Burry phoned me when he was halfway in Port Edward. He was excited that he’d get home soon because he had a tailwind. We ended our conversation confirming our love for each other.” About an hour later Stander was dead.
And another cyclist is in a critical condition in a Richards Bay hospital after being hit by a car on Saturday.
Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said the 22-year-old woman was cycling with a group when she was hit on East Central arterial road at 6.15pm.
He said the woman was thrown several metres and the vehicle rammed into a pole after riding over her bicycle. She was taken to the Netcare Bay Hospital.
A passenger in the car, who was also injured, was treated at a provincial hospital.
Stander’s death has sparked national outrage in the cycling community, leading to calls for tougher legislation to protect cyclists and stringent law enforcement to ensure their safety.
Cherise, also a keen mountain biker, was among the first at the scene of the accident and was seen hugging the body of her husband as she wept. They married in May last year.
Cherise and Stander’s mother, Mandie, were counselled and sedated by paramedics before they were taken to a hospital in an ambulance.
Cherise Stander said the family had been overwhelmed by the messages of support they had received.
“He was the centrepiece of the family and we are all broken right now,” she said.
She had not decided whether she would continue to cycle. “His passion rubbed off on me and I have not yet decided whether I will continue cycling. He would have wanted me to keep going - he was just as invested in my career as he was in his own.”
She said she would champion the Burry Stander Foundation to ensure her husband’s death would bring about change.
According to information released by police and paramedics, Stander was cycling in the opposite direction to the taxi which crashed into him in the emergency lane as the driver executed a left turn.
His bloodied body lay at the roadside near the crumpled remains of his bicycle.
The driver of the taxi faces a charge of culpable homicide and will appear in the Port Shepstone Magistrate’s Court tomorrow.
Although there was speculation he had fled the scene of the accident, police spokesman Jay Naicker confirmed he had co-operated with officers when they arrived.
Stander’s father, Charles, said his son’s death was the “worst moment” of his life. “Words cannot even begin to describe how one feels when it happens. It was terrible.”
“For us Burry will always be more than just a mountain bike champion. He was a champion on and off his bike. For him, his family always came first.
“He never hesitated to help when, and wherever, he could. He really made us all very proud,” Stander added.
Stander’s publicist, Zoon Cronjé, said a Burry Stander Foundation would drive the process to change legislation on cycling safety and assist projects aimed at promoting safe cycling.
Memorial rides in Stander’s honour are planned across the country. One took place in Durban last night and another is planned for 2pm from St Michael’s Beach today.
Stander’s funeral will take place on Thursday. - Sunday Tribune