A witness to the crash in which NMMU student Jamie Baartzes died – when a driver on the wrong side of the freeway crashed into her vehicle – told yesterday how he sat with the critically injured youngster after pushing away the driver, who allegedly reeked of alcohol.
Baartzes, 19, a first-year foundation phase education student, died on March 15 last year after leaving the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University following an evening of studying.
She was driving home to Sunridge Park at about midnight on the M4 highway near the Russell Road turnoff when a BMW 320i slammed head-on into her white Chevrolet Spark.
The BMW, driven by Amos Siyayana, 29, of Motherwell, was allegedly travelling in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road.
Baartzes died from her injuries while being treated at the scene by paramedics.
Siyayana is facing four charges, including culpable homicide, reckless and negligent driving, driving under the influence of alcohol and driving without a valid driver’s licence.
Wesley Civetts, 27, of Durban, said that when he and a colleague came across the accident mere seconds after it happened, two of Siyayana’s passengers had leapt out of the BMW and run towards him.
When Civetts got closer to Baartzes’ car, he allegedly saw Siyayana pulling her by her arm through the driver’s side window of her car.
Civetts told Magistrate John Montgomery that Siyayana “reeked of alcohol and was obviously drunk”.
He said he had pushed Siyayana away from Baartzes and stayed with her until paramedics arrived.
Baartzes’ parents, Justin and Chantal, held each other tightly as details were revealed of their daughter’s last moments.
Siyayana was arrested shortly after the accident and released on R3000 bail. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
In his plea explanation, read out in court yesterday by his defence attorney, Zolile Nqgeza, Siyayana said he had taken the wrong road by mistake when he got to the intersection at the bottom of Russell Road and accidentally ended up on the side of the M4.
“Once I was up the road, I realised I was heading towards Summerstrand and I realised I was on the wrong side of the road,” he said in the statement.
Siyayana claimed he had pulled over and driven on the yellow line before stopping to allow other cars to pass him before he attempted to carry on to turn around further up the road.
He said Baartzes had been speeding and her car’s lights had been on bright.
Earlier in the day before the trial started, Chantal Baartzes was led out of court in tears when Siyayana sat near the family, including Jamie’s siblings, Jessie, 17, and Jayden, 15, in the front row of the gallery.
About 30 people, including family and friends of the Baartzes, some wearing T-shirts with her image printed on them, attended the first day of the trial.
Earlier, the group had stood silently in protest outside the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court holding banners warning of the dangers of drinking and driving.
Long-time family friend Althea Martin said: “We want to create awareness that it is not OK to drink and drive and to get the younger generation aware of the implications.”
After court adjourned, Martin’s husband, Ashley, speaking on behalf of the Baartzes family, said attending the trial was bittersweet.
“It is bringing up a lot of emotions, almost like opening a wound,” he said, explaining that Jamie’s parents were too upset to talk.
“It is something we have to face. We need to get this closure.”
Five witnesses, including the two women who were in Siyayana’s car on the night of the accident, will testify today.
Passengers Siphokazi Babela and Nomfundo Booi will testify for the state.