Almost 15 years ago, the life of a young and vibrant teacher, Kavisha Seevnarain, changed in a matter of minutes.
She was hijacked, taken on a terror ride and eventually thrown over a 67m high bridge.
Seevnarain, now 41, of Durban, said while she still remembered her ordeal like it was yesterday, self-determination and positive thoughts had enabled her to get back on her feet.
Seevnarain, who was 26 at the time and lived in Pinetown, was on her way to visit a friend in Shallcross on the night of November 13, 2009.
While stopped at an intersection in the area, she was ambushed by four armed men, who smashed the window of her Mercedes-Benz and gained entry into her vehicle. She was then driven around Durban until the early hours of the morning, robbed and thrown over the uMkhomazi River bridge on the South Coast.
“I pleaded with the hijackers and made every effort to prevent being removed from the vehicle. I clung to the headrest and seat belt, but they pulled and pushed me out of the vehicle. As they suspended me over the bridge, I clutched onto the railing, crying and pleading, but they booted my hands and fingers so I would let go.
“I knew the end was near and that I would not survive the fall. However, I cannot be certain if it was the adrenalin, strength, tenacity or the will to live, but all I felt was the sensation of flying. It took me an eternity to fall, it was as if I was being guided,” she said.
Seevnarain said that while falling, she positioned her body into a swimming position.
“I impulsively poised my body so I would hit the water with my hand, chest and stomach rather than my back. The bridge is close to the river mouth and the strength of the river’s flow is regulated by the sea-tide. The water can become high and treacherous, so I prepared myself to swim for my life. Then I hit water, very little water. But I suppose that the mud and silt mercifully cushioned my fall. I was still alive,” she said.
Seevnarain said she was terrified that the hijackers would see she was still alive, and attempted to seek cover.
“However, it was all in vain. I pulled out my waterlogged boots and jacket to gain mobility, but I collapsed. I dragged myself onto a sandbank for some 10m and placed myself against a pillar before losing consciousness for a few minutes. But I knew I had to stay awake out of fear they would return and with hope that I would be saved,” she said.
Seevnarain was finally rescued after a man spotted her and alerted the authorities.
“However, it was only later that I was told of the fall and the extent of my injury. I sustained two fractures to my pelvis, seven fractured ribs, contusions to the lungs, a tear in my renal artery and bruising all over my body. But I was going to walk again.”
Seevnarain, who is now a lecturer, said there were challenges moving forward.
“The year 2010 was probably the most difficult, but time heals all wounds. The hijacking has had its impact on me and there are many lessons I still practise, like being more wary on the roads and not driving at night unless it’s an absolute emergency.”
Seevnarain said she was grateful for a strong support structure
“I never would have been able to get back on my feet without the support of my parents, relatives and close friends. Self-determination also played a big role. I wouldn’t accept defeat and pushed myself into getting life back to normal as soon as I could.
“However, you don’t ever fully recover emotionally. You stop thinking about it, but then after a while there are little triggers that set off memories and you can’t stop thinking about it continuously for days. But I try to keep positive thoughts and think of everything to be thankful for rather than focusing on what went wrong along the way.
“I think I have come far with the healing process. It has been more than 14 years, I guess everything does take time. But along with that, I have made life changes so I am never in that vulnerable position again.”
Seevnarain said it was important to give victims space to come to terms with their situation on their own.
“After that, it’s advisable for them to seek counselling, or even a support group if they find it difficult to move on.”
She added she did not see the purpose of harsh prison sentences being imposed if they are not fully served.
“I don’t know what the point is when it can’t be seen through. The four hijackers in my case were handed between 12- and 40-year sentences. The juvenile only served eight years out of the 12, while one of the other men only served 12 and a half years. I was called to Westville prison when he was about to be released. I am sure the other two are also out of prison now. So, where is the justice for the victims?” she asked.