Cederville Adventure – Day 1 (Before the action)

Another boring day at work, that was until the editor coined onto the bright idea to get down to the sight of the latest bus crash. The bus lost control and went off the road, rolling down a hill. 24 people were killed.

The accident happened some place called cederville, past Umtata. Trying to drive that one day would be crazy considering how bad the roads are, plus the amount of live stock on the road. So we came up with a better plan. We would leave at haste, make a bee line straight for East London. Being 4 hours closer would make our trip a lot quicker and help us spend more time on the ground talking to family of those killed in the crash, plus those lucky ones that made it out of there alive.

We were given the keys to the company bakkie and headed out. We managed to get to East London in our company gas guzzler. I will give it to the company, the put us up in a awesome 4 star B&B called the White house.

I will keep you informed about the happenings of our awesome adventure. Plus I will be taking pictures. As for now, we must get to sleep. Cos there is talk of waking up for at 5am in the morning. Damn it! we will miss out on the breakfast and all that comes with it.

Drivers that chap my ass.

Your hands grip tightly to the steering wheel, you can feel your blood begin to boil, the first mutterings of swear words begin to fall from your mouth. If only this car in front of you would stop driving like an ass! We’re in a 60 zone and this bastard, can’t seem to get above 40! You bang your steering wheel, you scream you shout. You scream, at them from the safety of your car.

Hat Man –

Driving his old Ford Escort, with his even older wife by his side. Some could see this aging couple as cute or sweet. When driving behind them, all that cuteness evaporates in the heat of the rage that boils inside you. You know your in for a slow drive when you spot the hat. Old men in hats, seem to think that because they are old that everyone must wait for them. And yes those older than us should be given the respect they deserve. However it seems that when that hat goes on and the old lady is in sitting next to them, they seem to need a traffic jam behind them.

B.E.E.tty –

We’ve all seem them, driving there massive BMW’s or Mercs, covered in gold jewelery and clothed in expensive name branded items. They grasp onto their massive steering wheels with their fat hands, their massive bellies hidden behind tops. Button’s straining under the immense pressure. Thanks to this BEEuatiful country we live in, they are able to drive around all day, in behemoth gas guzzling machines, never managing to get past the third gear. With one vorgon-looking hand on the wheel and the other holding her cell phone she rattles on and on about something. Something that must be vitally important, as that call seems to go on forever. As the traffic builds up behind her, and her million rand car begs to be driven. She has the power in front of her to reach speeds that most of us would be to scared to even think about, let alone put foot and reach. She will drive at least 10kmph under the speed limit, in a world of her own, still talking on her phone, grasping the steering wheel with her chubby hands and claw like finger nails.

Blocking Brother –

You seem them cruising the streets in there semi-pimped mobile. They will have the mags and possibly the booming sound system, but unable to afford anything else they are forced to use some other means of showing the public at large that they are hardcore mother fuckers. They roll their seat all the way down, almost to the point were they are lying down while driving their car. One must ask the question, how the hell do you drive like this? When did the desire to be seen as cool over ride the ability to see out of your car? One would think that when driving a ton of metal and plastic at various speeds, the most important thing would be to see what is going on around you. The blocking brother however nullifies this danger by never driving at anything over 40 km/h. Less someone does not seem him. We see you, and you look like a dick.

Jo-Burger on the coast –

This middle to upper class white folk of South Africa tend to invaded the coastal area in mass come the holiday season. They pack their SUV’s and head to were the chance of them being shot in the face and able to see the sky not smog is abundant. They cruise the beach front, behind locked doors and flashing cameras. Only getting out of their cars, when they have found that parking spot right in front of the beach. Pasty white legs run straight to the beach, a flash of cameras and cellphones been taken out, to tell there land locked friends what the beach is like. They find them selves back onto the roads again, traffic has most likely picked up as, they Jo-burger has spent most of their day at the beach. Some switch inside them seems to be flicked, suddenly their back in Jo-burg, driving like a wild man. Weaving in and out of traffic, cutting people off, the odd rude hand gesture out of the window. Stay clam jo-burger, were not out to get you, but if you keep driving like that we maybe forced to mutter angry words when ever we see your GP number plate.

Multi-tasking soccer mom –

During the day they seem to driving about from one mall to the other, always talking on their cellphone and putting some make up on to hide their increasingly aging face. Around 2 o’clock a school bell rings and the mother goes into freak out mode, a her little rain drop is waiting outside of school and she having finished her 18th cup of coffee, she needs to get to her child before some freak kidnaps them. In an out of traffic, their massive SUV weaves, massive tyres scream and grid against the pavement as she takes the corner to wide and mounts the footpath. Cellphone in one hand, make brush in the other, chatting to her fellow soccer mom that she will soon see. Unable to stay in one lane, she chooses rather to stay in the middle of the road. She arrives at her little cutie pies school. Stepping down from her monster SUV, high heels clatter on the foot path as she races to pick up her kids.

Then back into the thick of it, she’s got to get the kids to music, judo, or any of the other millions of things that kids are forced into doing now days. The kids, never wearing a seat beat, are flung from side to side as she makes her way to their next port of call. Kids don’t even notice that their little bodies are flying around the inside of a car, they are to busy on their cellphones, much like mom.

 

Boy Racer Boer –

Having seen one to many episodes of Pimp my ride and thought the “Fast and the Furious” movies were bliksem kiff, these boys seem to think that their 94 VW Jetta is capable of reaching speeds that require the use of a rear spoiler. Their custom paint jobs and air intake vents add that extra amount of awesome to their choice of transport. You always hear them before you see them, the hum of their exhaust and boom sound system. They pull up next to you, gold necklace and a popped collar, you know your in for some wheel spinning burn off as soon the traffic light changes. They are on the other side of the coin of drivers, they are totally unable to driving anything close to the speed limit. Always revving their engine, causing that stupid exhaust to crackle forth more terrible noise. Look lower to middle class white kids, why do you have to listen to rap music at top volume, I have a couple of theories on why you might do so.

  • I’ve spoken to your types before, unable let anything of sense spill from your bucktoothed mouth you use the music to hide your insane ramblings, less someone hears you. However this again could not be the case, as you seem to move in packs. A colllective gang bang of high fiving, brandy drinking, 100% boer boys.
  • Unable to get any attention at home or from anyone else, that is capable of not bringing the blue bulls into a conversation, they must make their presence known to all and sundry.

If you do happen to be out late one evening, beware as you are now in the domain of the drunken boy racer. Waiting at the traffic light a packed car will hum up to the light and all of the occupents will look over to you. There is sure to be patting on the back and some sort of conversation inside the car. Their engine rev’s, and they look at you again. You rev back, a frenzy breaks out in the car. The light changes, wheels spin and acrid tyre smoke streams from the spinning wheels. They fly off down the road and you turn the corner and return to eating your petrol station pie.

A crazy week in PE. My body count is on the rise.

Later that week…

So after the events that led to the writing of the fire and water blog, I thought that nothing could stand against that. I as usual was wrong.

A woman driving down the R72 thought it a novel idea to over take on a blind rise corner… not the smartest thing she could have done. You see it ended with her slamming into side of a petrol tanker. The result, one person dead and more than 370 000 litres of up in smoke.

The woman driving the bakkie, was killed on impact. Her left leg was amputated below the knee and her neck was broken, it wobbled around on her body like a bobble head toy. Her passenger, a 40 year old woman who was 4 months pregnant. She was lucky, only sustaining burns to her head and face. Paramedics told me that she started going into labour soon after the accident. I was unable to find out if the baby survived, but my guess it didn’t.

The tanker on the other hand, was gutted through and through, it burnt so hot it melted the tankers frame into the road. Some how the driver was left unhurt. Lucky bastard! According to him, after the woman hit the tanker, the petrol ignited causing a massive explosion.

The day after the tanker went boom, a woman thought it a novel idea to jump 17 floors to her death on the road below. Word of warning, when you jump from a building you really go splat all over the place.

I got the call while sitting in the office. Seeing for some or other reason I am the goto guy when it comes to anything containing death I grabbed my camera and note pad and raced out to the scene.

This poor woman, jumped 17 floors and lay splattered all over the road. The one thing i will never forget for as long as i live, was this womans underwear. Her pants must have fallen down as she fell from the roof. She was wearing these little green undies with white flowers over them. Doubt she ever took notice of these undies at any point of what had been her life. They did the job so she didn’t ever give them a second glance. Now they where there for everyone to see. Covered in her blood and urine. Her stomach had split open and her intestines were hanging over her functional green undies.

I remember standing next to the body, talking to the police spokesman, trying to joke and make light of some thing, just to escape from this this terrible image before us.

All around us, were hundreds of people fighting each other to get a look at what remained of this woman, mother, daughter, wife and friend. It made my sick to see them take out their cell phones and take photos. They screamed and laughed as police and fire department tried to load her into a body bag. I screamed a them, ” Look at you people!, you make me sick, this poor woman is dead and all you can do is laugh and scream. Why do you have to take photos and video. Look at you, your standing in her body fluids.”

The crowd stopped for a second to look down, at their feet. Drying stomach fluids and other human body fluids lay at their feet. They didn’t even miss a heart beat, they just continued to talk and mutter about how far she fell. I looked down at my shoes, I was standing in a pool of this womans bloody urine, my camera around my neck…

Wonder what next week will hold.

Fire and water, my crazy day.

What a mad, bloody and smoke filled day.

I arrive at work, I have not even logged into my computer when the call comes in that 3 children had been burnt to death in a shack fire. I grab my camera and a note pad and head out. Arriving on the scene I’m welcome with the smell of burnt human. If you’ve never smelt it, count your self lucky, if you have you know that it stays with you the whole day.

The story goes like this.

A mother of three kids, aged 1, 3 and 5 years old, went to the shebeen (community members confirmed this) to go buy some booze at 7:30 in the morning, leaving her kids alone in the house. At some point one of the kids must have knocked over a paraffin lamp over starting a fire. Now being small children they had no clue what to do about the fire or that they must run away from it. The sadest thing for me, is that the 5 year old the only one that could have done anything was disabled and unable to walk. He burnt alive in his bed. The other two children, two girls, were found badly burnt lying on the ground next to each other. What a scene, I’ve gone to shack fires before, but when children are involved its something that is beyond words.

They took bodies away and the community started to pray, which was a mad sight for your average little white boy like me. Then things looked like it was about to get out of hand. People were getting louder and louder. Angry shouts and looks were coming to us as well as the mother. There was talk of them attacking the mother when everyone left. So I left, not wanting to make the news. I left this poor mother with no children left and a husband that not even she knows where to what ever fate the community chooses.

Arriving back at the office i get another call, a man has drowned after falling from a bridge into a river. Racing to the scene my self and a photographer wait around to see if they pull up the body. They were still looking when we left the scene

.

Back at the office, coffee, smoke and check email.

When a fax comes across my desk that the body of a 2 year old boy was found badly burnt inside a plastic packet.

The story was that this boy went missing last Sunday. His father started looking for him the same day, but only called the police on Tuesday for help in the search. The Search and Rescue dog unit was called in to help. After day of looking and finding nothing they gave up for the day. But began the search again today. While searching a farm in the Patensie area their dogs found the body of the boy. Two people had been arrested in connection with the murder a 58 year old male and 54 year old female married couple are to appear in court on Friday.

That was my day, I hope tomorrow is as action packed

Phones never stop ringing at busy 10111 call centre

IT‘S Saturday night and, with a trained operator at my side, I‘m getting to experience first hand what it is to be a 10111 call centre operator. Tonight I‘m the voice at the end of the line that people reach out to in their time of need – and reach out they do.
“Please, please you‘ve got to help me, they‘re beating up my husband, please send someone, please!”
This is the frantic plea I‘m confronted with as I pick up the phone. The woman is screaming down the phone for help. In the background I hear a little girl crying, shouting out: “Why are you doing that to my daddy?”
As I frantically try to capture the information, the realisation hits me: This is not as easy as people think.
The calls flood in all evening, averaging about 230 an hour – a call every 15 seconds. And apparently this is a slow night.
Early in the evening, however, it becomes clear to me that the bulk of the calls are people calling the 10111 centre for their own amusement. One man in particular calls more than 40 times in one hour. He‘s well known to the operators.
After an hour or so I feel I have the call answering thing cracked. Then the clock ticks over to 10pm and suddenly all hell seems to break loose. The call centre becomes a hive of activity. Calls come in from all over town: attempted house robberies, shootings in progress, reports of a hijacking, too many assaults and fights to even begin to write about.
It seems that come the weekend, especially at the end of the month when everyone‘s been paid and can buy drink, the rate at which people cause each other harm skyrockets.
My phone rings. On the line is a man sitting in his car in Park Drive, reporting that someone is shooting in the area. I can hear the shots in the background.
It is my first priority one call (where police need to respond as soon as possible), and feeling a bit out of my league, I hand the phone over to the professionals and listen on the speaker phone.
As the man is talking, the operator pushes a button next to her phone, triggering an alarm in the dispatch area, alerting the dispatchers that something important is happening.
They in turn begin contacting police officers in the field over the radio, ready to direct them as soon as they know more.
Back at my terminal, the operator is punching the information from the caller into the system, then clicks “report” on her computer screen.
The information appears on all the dispatchers‘ screens immediately. Radios crackle to life and orders are given about what is happening and where.
There is little to no feedback from the dispatcher back to the call operator about whether the complaint has been resolved. There simply isn‘t time. By the time you put the phone down, it‘s already ringing again.
Remember this when you get angry and spit venom down the line at the operator. They are there to get your information and pass that on to the dispatchers, who prioritise the incidents and dispatch the vehicles accordingly.
For instance, when a complaint comes in from the Mill Park area, complaining about kids in the street making a noise by setting off firecrackers, followed shortly after by a report of a gang shooting and a report of mob justice, the limited police resources will be sent to deal with the shooting first.
It is amazing to experience first hand how one Mill Park soccer mom in particular completely lost it, demanding that we do something about the fireworks “right now”.
Not having the proper training to deal with this irate woman, I hand the headset over to the operator and turn on the speaker phone. She is rude and abusive.
Not only am I surprised by the pettiness of some of the complaints I field. I am also surprised at the distinct difference in the way people from different income brackets address me. It seems the wealthy have no concept of what speaking in a civilised manner means.
In comparison, a woman from Motherwell calls in to report, in a polite manner, that there is a drunk man covered in blood banging on her door, and that she is one of three women in the house. She gives us the necessary details, then hangs up. She calls back 30 minutes later, asking if we have dispatched a van. Not once does she scream or shout, not once does she call the police useless.
I realise that the operators at 10111 have a high-stress job that brings little reward.
The little girl‘s pleas for help still haunt me, and I was only there for three hours. How much more so are the full-time operators haunted by the calls they have had to answer?
But they also have to field those abusive and prank calls, from kids playing with pay phones to irate callers screaming obscenities down the line.

Danger all night long with a crew from the flying squad

THE car‘s tyres screamed as the driver spun in a 180-degree arc. We were responding to a call that there had just been an armed robbery. Two men had held up a woman at gunpoint and fled with her month‘s wages. I‘m spending time with the Nelson Mandela Bay flying squad in the townships of the city, and with sirens screaming, we head full tilt towards where the two robbers were last seen. We‘re close now, the lights go off and the siren dies away. We don‘t want to advertise our presence.
As we slowly drive down dusty dirt roads, the two police officers look down the alleyways that feed this gravel thoroughfare.
“I think we‘ve got something here,” the officer says over the two-way radio.
We edge our way down the alleyway. The two men haven‘t seen us yet. There is the metallic click of guns being loaded. The two walk on, unaware of our presence.
Then one of them sees us creeping up on them. How you creep in a one- ton car on a dirt road amazes me.
All the same, our creeping has been noticed. The two split up and start running between the shacks. The officer slams the car into gear and races after the closest one. Our car brakes suddenly to prevent us from running the man down.
The two police officers, Colin and Juba, jump from the car, guns at the ready. “Wait here!” one screams at me. Since there are people running around with guns, I stay in the car.
Sitting alone in a marked flying squad car, I glance nervously around. A man behind me stops and looks at the car. It‘s one of the men that we are chasing. “Over here, one of them is over here,” I scream while running towards the police officers. They run past me, sweat pouring from their faces.
We have no time to waste. Another call has come in. A silver Opel Rekord has been hijacked in Central.
From what I‘ve been told it‘s been a slow night. As the radio dies down and the workload suddenly disappears, the two officers I am accompanying cruise the dark streets and alleys looking for cars reported stolen.
We have a list of the 24 cars reported stolen in two days. Every car we pass, we check the number plates.
White Toyota Corolla, Citi Golf, blue Isuzu bakkie . . . that shape, model and colour is on the list. The number plate matches. We‘re in business.
We pull over and notice two men dressed to the nines. Under their arms, two drunk young girls stumble towards the stolen bakkie with them.
Colin jumps from the police car, cocks his R5 rifle and raises it towards the people as they start the car. “Step out of the car and put your hands above your head,” he yells at the men. Juba climbs out of the car, raising his 9mm pistol. “Get out of the car. Ladies, stay where you are,” he shouts.
After the arrests, I amble about, taking photos, talking to witnesses.
It seemed Juba had only called in backup five minutes ago, but out of nowhere, a swarm of policemen, armed with flak jackets, guns, mace and sjamboks climb out of their cars.
We‘re back on the street. Five minutes after Colin and Juba have finished their paperwork, another call comes through. A car has been stolen.
For the second time tonight, the car spins in a 180° arc and we make a beeline for the scene of the crime.
The rest of the night is a blur of screeching tyres and high speed.

Tis’ the season to be bloody

SCHOOL’S out, most people have taken leave from work and the good times are rolling. But for many, the rolling can quickly get out of hand, and not a day will go by this holiday without people being killed or badly injured in various accidents and alcohol-induced altercations.And, for most people, their only source of help is public hospitals. One of the busiest hospitals in Nelson Mandela Bay this season, and throughout the year, is Livingstone Hospital in Korsten.

I set out to spend the evening alongside the doctors and nurses there. I arrive at 7pm and already the stream of injured have begun to pour into the waiting room. Dreary, blood-covered people sit waiting to be attended to. A woman sits with a blanket covering her face. Thinking she is trying to protect herself from the rampant XDR TB that’s plaguing Port Elizabeth, I walk past without a second glance.I later learn she was actually trying to hide her bruised and bloodied face from people. She’d been beaten up so badly she could not even talk, her mouth was full of blood and her eyes were swollen to the point where she could not see.But she wasn’t in dire need of assistance, so she would have to wait her turn. Her turn would only come four hours later in the dead of night.Hearing a commotion, I peek around the corner of the suture room. Blood covers the floors and walls. Droplets of blood trail to the patients lining the walls. A man sits on the table, blood streaming down his face and back. Eleven stab wounds, the doctor tells me as he stitches the man back together. Behind drunk and pained eyes and with slurred speech the man tells me: “I was having some drinks with my friends when something happened and they stabbed me.”With friends like these, who needs enemies.The doctor doesn’t question him but instead gets right to the job at hand. I am sure he has heard this story a hundred times. And, with patients piling up, his workload is increasing by the minute.A man stabbed in the stomach, a gunshot to the leg and a young boy stabbed in the back are just a few of his patients for the evening.At times there is an eerie silence, except for a mother who sits clutching her 13-year-old son. Tears stream down her face and drip onto the young boy’s chest. They cut lines in the dried blood that seems to have covered most of his body, leaving trails of clear skin in an ocean of crimson.His stab wounds are deep. The doctor explains to the nurse: “We’re going to have to send him to the SOC (surgeon on call)”.“Is he going to be alright?” the mother wails.This young boy, a prefect and keen soccer player at his school, has not been stabbed by a stranger, but by someone close to him. His 14-year-old sister’s 24-year-old boyfriend took revenge on the family for not allowing the sister to see him anymore. So he walked up behind this young boy and cut a 12cm gash into his back, slicing through veins and damaging the child’s left kidney. With not enough orderlies around, his mother and other family members which have begun to arrive push him up to the SOC area to be seen by a surgeon.

There, he waits again to be treated. Family members arrive in their droves – many drunk, stumbling along the hallways – asking every staff member they see if the young boy is alright.The SOC section has only two doctors on duty and they are stretched thinly between patients. Having to tend to so many at once, they have no choice but to let this boy wait. There are more serious injuries that must be attended to. A woman has been brought in, unconscious and unable to be woken. A bad sign, the doctor tells me. Her chest has collapsed and her x-rays show she has seven broken ribs.The doctors send her for a CAT scan. I am surprised to find the radiological room is like stepping into the first world. It’s so clean and well maintained that it could put some private hospitals to shame.The scan shows she has bleeding on the brain and an operation is needed to relieve the pressure that’s building up. But she will also have to wait her turn, as the operating room is full at the moment. Unable to find out what happened to her, the doctor guesses she was either hit by a car or beaten so badly that she could die.In my short time so far at Livingstone, at least 90 per cent of the people coming in have injuries that have been caused by people under the influence of alcohol. Finally, Dr Leslie Hendricks, a 27-year-old who is her final days of community service, calls over the teenage boy’s family and tells them to bring him to the cubicle so she can attend to him.She removes the bandages the doctors in the suture room have placed on the boy. “It’s not too bad, we should be able to sort this boy out quickly,” she tells the mother as she examines the wound on his back. Mom breaks down in tears when she sees her son’s injuries. “I’ll be right back,” Hendricks says before dashing off down the hallway. I trail after her, thinking she is off to attend to an urgent new case.But no, she’s just making a dash to the bathroom. On her way she is stopped by people on stretchers and lining the hallways asking her to help their loved ones.I head back to the cubicle to await the doctor’s return, to find the boy has been joined by an uncle barely able to stand. The man looks like he himself is no stranger to the inside of this hospital. He rubs the boy’s neck with such ferocity, despite the child having a wound you could easily put your whole hand into. The boy begs his uncle to stop. The doctor returns, washes her hands and gloves up to attend to her young patient. She injects him with some pain killers and opens up the wound. It’s not as easy a task as she had thought. The boy’s veins have been cut and will have to be stitched back together. She clamps off the veins and gets to work. The swaying uncle shouts at the doctor to hurry up.

He is still rubbing the boy’s neck, making the whole stretcher shake and making a tough job all the tougher. “If you don’t stop moving the stretcher I’m going to have you removed, so please keep quiet and don’t interfere,” the doctor retorts.In one ear and out the other. The uncle doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the boy – he is far more interested in looking at the wound and the operation in progress.The doctors, nurses and security staff at Livingstone are in a constant battle with drunk and disorderly patients and family members. According to the staff I talk to in between being run off their feet, some people like to drink to the point where they can no longer stand. Then they think the best way to settle an argument is to stab each other repeatedly.More often than not, it’s friends and family who do the stabbing. From what I can see, the staff are dedicated and under an enormous amount of stress, poorly paid – but then what civil servant isn’t – and expected to perform at the top of their game, working on little to no sleep. Some people complain the waiting times are excessive at Livingstone. They are, but the number of people constantly streaming into the hospital is also excessive. At about 2am there is a brief respite and the two doctors on duty in the SOC section have time for a quick chat. “I didn’t even taste my dinner, I just stuffed it into my mouth. It didn’t even touch sides,” Hendricks tells the other doctor on duty, who nods in agreement. Then it’s back to work. The operating room is finally free and Hendricks – who at just 27 is the neuro-surgeon on call – can now operate on the comatose woman who has bleeding on the brain.She drills into the patient’s skull and begins to extract the clotted blood. It’s only for those with strong stomachs. A large clot is pulled out and blood begins pouring from Jane Doe’s head. A silent panic seems to take over the theatre. They are unable to find the source of the bleeding. Her heart rate drops and her blood pressure hits the floor. Out come a pair of pliers that would not seem out of place in a horror movie. They cut into her head, making the whole bigger. The crunch of breaking bone sends chills down my spine.No luck. They have to abort the operation and hope the bleeding will stop by itself. By 4am, the hospital is as busy as it was when I arrived. The sick line the hallways waiting to be attended. People with cuts line the walls of the suture room. Babies cry as doctors tend to them. The staff by this time look like they are running on auto pilot. For some it may be the season to be jolly, but not for the doctors and nurses in our public hospitals. They are worked almost to breaking point. And it’s inspiring to see what magic they can work with the shortage of resources available.So next time you reach for that drink while enjoying your Christmas holidays, think about where it could land you.