Wednesday, August 12, 2009

South African Tow Truck Driver Killed Last Friday

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 25-year old Lewies Vermaak, who died in an accident last Friday. He leaves behind a wife and 4-year old son. Here's the story from

Arisja Jacobs

Secunda – A young tow-truck driver died in an accident on Thursday, as conflict between local tow-truck operators continued.

Lewies Vermaak, 25, had only been married to his wife, Charné, 22, for three months.

Her mother, Wilna Marais, died three weeks ago in a car accident on the same road where Vermaak died.

Vermaak also left a four-year-old son, Brandon.

Vermaak had been working at Sectri-Auto for the past month. The company's Dawie Greef and Nico Higgs, owner of Modern Auto Repair, claimed the accident scene to which Vermaak had been going, was actually a police trap to catch tow-truck operators.

But Secunda police station spokesperson, Captain Busaphi Sibanyoni, denied this.

Collision with tow-truck

Vermaak got a R500 fine for speeding on his way to the accident scene, in the direction of Evander. On his return, his tow truck, a Nissan Navara, collided with a vehicle driven by Tommy Bronkhorst from Car Doctor.

The Navara rolled over to the right of the road and over the central ridge and double lane of oncoming traffic, finally stopping in long grass at the side of the road.

Vermaak died on the scene. Bronkhorst was unhurt and his vehicle appeared not to be badly damaged.

Greef's wife, Tanya, said Vermaak was very popular in the two-truck community. "He went directly to heaven. Lewies recently salved our vehicles and company so that God would bless us and protect us."

The accident scene was attended by many police and traffic officials, tow-truck drivers and owners and their lawyers.

Accusations of road rage, competition between tow-truck operators and death threats were voiced out loud.

Physical altercations between tow-truck drivers of the roughly eight companies in the area happen regularly at accident scenes. Assault charges are regularly made and then withdrawn.

Owners blamed for conflict

"When will it stop? Will we first have to take one of your bodies from the road before you stop fighting like this?", Captain Floors Steyn of the Secunda detective branch asked a few tow-truck operators about two months ago, after one of them had been attacked with a golf club.

Sibanyoni said on Thursday, "I can't yet confirm whether the accident was related to the continued infighting between the different tow-truck operators. We will investigate all angles."

Stephen Holloway, owner of Car Doctor, told Beeld that Bronkhorst had gotten along well with Vermaak and that there was no bad blood between them.

"Tommy currently tows most of the vehicles in town."

A tow-truck driver, who didn't want to give his name for fear of losing his job, said on Thursday that owners of tow-truck companies were behind the fighting amongst operators. "We are now paid a small basic salary and get commission for every car we tow. Each of the operators have police scanners and our bosses know this."

"We have to race to be first on the scene, otherwise we don't get paid. If our bosses sort it out, then things can change."

- Beeld

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