Pretoria - A hunting expedition ended in tragedy for a professional hunter when he was accidentally shot in the foot with his hunting rifle by an amateur.
The professional had to undergo a below-the-knee amputation, and the amateur hunter is now being held liable for the damages suffered.
Izak Rust turned to the Western Cape High Court to claim damages (no amount has been mentioned at this stage) from Johan Coetzee, following the hunting incident in 2014.
Acting Judge A De Wet commented in his judgment that this incident on a farm in the Eastern Cape would haunt both parties for the rest of their lives.
Rust claimed Coetzee was negligent that day as he handled the loaded rifle with reckless disregard for his safety.
According to Rust, Coetzee failed to adhere to his instructions.
Coetzee, on the other hand, claimed the rifle was faulty the shot went off as a result.
The court heard that Coetzee was a first-time hunter who had rented the rifle from Rust, his guide.
Coetzee, his wife and some friends went to the farm in the Eastern Cape on a hunting trip during July 2014. Coetzee had never hunted or handled a rifle previously, but was guided by Rust and went to a shooting range to practise.
It is Coetzee’s version that after he had missed black wildebeest earlier on the day of the incident, he took out the spent cartridge and put it in his pocket. Rust then chambered a round for him and handed the rifle back to him. He carried the chambered rifle with the bolt open.
When Rust spotted a herd of wildebeest, Coetzee said, Rust instructed him to slam down the bolt. At this stage Rust was slightly in front and to the left of him. When he slammed down the bolt, a shot must have gone off, he testified.
Coetzee denied pulling the trigger and said the rifle had an internal malfunction, causing the shot to go off.
Rust, on the other hand, testified that when he spotted a herd of wildebeest, he softly told Coetzee to get ready and to load a cartridge in the chamber then. According to Rust, he stepped slightly forward to set up the tripod. A shot suddenly went off, which hit him in the foot.
Rust said he would never have instructed a client to slam down the bolt of the rifle, as claimed by Coetzee, as it would scare the animals away and was simply not done that way.
After also hearing the evidence of various expert witnesses in the hunting industry, the judge accepted that Coetzee was not instructed to slam down the bolt. It was said that this was simply not done in the hunting environment, where one stalks animals with exceptional hearing.
Any unnatural sounds would make them bolt, resulting in an unsuccessful hunt.
The court also accepted that the rifle was in good condition and that a shot could not have been fired without pulling the trigger.
It was found that Coetzee was negligent and that he was liable to pay Rust the damages he could prove that he had suffered.
The amount of damages will be decided at a later stage.