Phoenix accident victims wait 6 years for justice
Durban - It has been nearly six years since a Phoenix schoolboy allegedly lost control of the vehicle he was driving, on a narrow street, and ploughed head-on into four workmen on the roadside, in 2015.
Both the legs of one workman were amputated, above the knee, due to the impact of the vehicle, while another died a few hours later.
The other two workers also survived, but not without sustaining serious injuries.
However, the trial of Tevin John, who allegedly drove his mother’s red VW Polo without permission on August 28, 2015, is yet to begin.
It was due to start at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday but was adjourned to later this month.
The matter was initiated at the Phoenix Magistrate’s Court before it was moved to Verulam.
State prosecutor Ntuthuko Mngadi handled the matter for the first time on Wednesday.
Proceedings were halted temporarily due to the unavailability of the previous magistrate.
It was then moved to acting magistrate Stan Miloszewski’s court.
John’s legal representative, advocate Paul Jorgensen said all the changes turned the matter into a “ping pong match”.
Jorgensen took exception with being handed the accident reconstruction expert’s amended report only on the day in spite of him requesting all the necessary case documents in December 2019.
Jorgensen was also at odds with the details added to witnesses statements.
“The expert interviewed the victims about a year after their initial statement. Their statements now have about 10 times more detail than their previous statements.
“This questions the witnesses’ and the expert’s credibility,” said Jorgensen. He explained that experts relied on the witnesses’ statement’s to formulate his report.
Jorgensen also applied for the expert’s interview notes to be shared.
Miloszewski responded that clarity on the report can be gained when the expert testified.
He said statements taken by police in the initial stages of investigations usually contained the “bare minimum” of information, but further statements were taken, they should be made available.
Mngadi said clarity would be gained when the expert testified and he had no objection with sharing the notes, provided they existed.
Once Jorgensen received the notes, he asked for the matter to be adjourned so he could have more time to consult with his client.
Miloszewski accepted the matter was long on the court roll, which was no fault of Mngadi.
But agreed that Jorgensen’s adjournment request was reasonable.
“This is a serious matter. People’s lives are affected here including the accused who needs a proper defence,” said Miloszewski.
Culpable homicide, reckless and negligent driving and driving without a valid license are the charges against John.
A charge of driving his mother’s car without her consent was opened previously but since withdrawn.
John had a learners driver’s licence at the time and was the sole occupant of the VW that crashed on Tatford Avenue, in Sunford, Phoenix.
The State alleges that he wrongfully and negligently contributed to the collision that caused the death of Velenkosi Mpungose, 38.
Mpungose was with his work colleagues Kevin Roopnarain (36) and Aldane Scheepers (36) and Thulani Chala (41).
He, Roopnarain and Scheepers were the eThekwini Municipality employees attending to a water leak on Tatford Avenue. Chala worked for the plumbing company providing assistance.
The State claimed that John a matric pupil at the time, failed to control of his vehicle, drove at an unsafe speed on a road wide enough for a single vehicle only.
It is alleged that John tried to negotiate a sharp bend on Tatford with no regard for pedestrians and oncoming vehicles. It resulted in him colliding into pedestrians and did extensive damage to property.
In Roopnarain’s statement, he said they were attending to a valve positioned in front of house number 39.
He and Mpungose were kneeling and the others were behind them. They heard a vehicle with high engine revs in their vicinity.
Suddenly, he heard the screech of tyres and, like the others, didn’t have time to react. He then found himself lying on the driveway of number 39.
His left leg was amputated and his right leg was badly damaged. Doctors later performed reconstructive surgery on that leg. He presently relies on prosthetic legs for mobility.
Warrant officer Fred Snodgrass of the Saps’ accident combating unit has been tasked with reconstructing the accident scene and providing a report.
He believes the vehicle was travelling at a speed greater than 52kmph, which was greater than the critical curve speed. The critical curve speed is the speed a car can safely negotiate a bend before losing traction.
After Wednesday’s proceedings, Roopnarain and others remarked that their wait for justice was a long one.