Cape Town - Karen Nothnagel says there are moments in your life where you think: “This is it, I’m going to die.”
Hers was driving away from a pair of hijackers as they opened fire on her during a car chase in Bothasig.
The vehicle was riddled with bullets, the windows were shattered, and Nothnagel was hit in the back.
“I could feel the blood rushing over my hand,” she said. “I just remember my husband trying to help me steer the car and I was not sure if I was going to make it or not.”
It’s been three days since the harrowing chase, but Nothnagel, 46, said on Tuesday that it was difficult to find the words to describe their nightmare. Two men had picked her and her husband Gean, 44, out as easy targets on Saturday night.
The Nothnagels were driving from Table View towards Bothasig at about 9.45pm. On Plattekloof Road they were travelling along the bridge which arches over the N7 when they stopped at a set of red lights.
The narrow road was quiet, with only a single car in front of them.
That’s when a man “appeared out of nowhere”, jumping onto their car bonnet. He started smashing the windscreen. Then there was a thud on the driver’s side of the car.
“I was driving and I looked over. There was this guy just smashing the window.”
Without thinking Nothnagel floored the accelerator. The old Toyota Corolla lurched forwards as she aimed for a gap between the stationary car and the pavement.
“People ask why I did this and why I did that, I don’t know, it just happened. It was instinct.”
As Nothnagel’s car roared forward towards the Bothasig circle, she spotted the hijackers behind her. They were now driving a car, leaning out of the windows and firing at the Toyota.
The Richwood couple were lying as low as they could, hoping to dodge a fatal shot. The road ahead of them was beginning to widen, an island forming in the middle.
Struggling to steer, Nothnagel felt the impact as the front wheel of the car connected with concrete. Then she felt burning along her side. She didn’t know it then, but one of the bullets had hit her.
“My husband was holding on to the steering wheel, directing us towards the circle.”
Nothnagel’s first thought was to make it to the police station, but the hijackers, guessing their intention, skidded to try to block off the circle’s exit.
“I drove on to Plattekloof Road. I think they must have given up.”
When Nothnagel arrived at the police station she said officers rushed to help her. Within 10 minutes paramedics had arrived and Nothnagel was transferred to Tygerberg Hospital.
The bullet, which had travelled through her body, narrowly missed her vital organs and was halted just below her shoulder blade, will not be removed.
“The doctors told me it could cause more harm if they took it out.”
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk confirmed they were investigating a case of attempted murder and hijacking.
“Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Sergeant LR Kemp on 021 558 3688.”