Holidaymaker tells inquest about fatal Ford Kuga fire

25 March 2019 - 15:22 By ARON HYMAN
Cellphone footage of Reshall Jimmy's Ford Kuga on fire in December 2015.
Cellphone footage of Reshall Jimmy's Ford Kuga on fire in December 2015.
Image: YouTube/TimesLIVE

A video showing the moment Reshall Jimmy burnt to death in his Ford Kuga more than three years ago was at the centre of a dispute over evidence at the inquest into his death on Monday.

The inquest, at the high court in Cape Town, led by advocate Gerrie Nel on behalf of the Jimmy family, has heard allegations of a cover-up by global vehicle manufacturer Ford and collusion with the state.

Likewise, Ford's lawyers have made claims about missing evidence and an incomplete police investigation.

Ford recalled 4,000 Kuga SUVs for safety checks after more than 80 of them went up in flames on the country's roads after Jimmy's vehicle burnt on December 4 2015.

Herman Keuler, from Prieska in the Northern Cape, testified on Monday about how he started filming a burning Kuga in Wilderness after hearing a loud bang and a woman shouting.

Keuler was sitting next to a pool on holiday at a coastal resort, talking to his girlfriend on the phone, when he heard a sound "almost like a shotgun" and seconds later a woman yelling for help.

When he was questioned by Nel about his statement, made by phone to a private investigator hired by Ford, he said the sound was like fireworks.

He could not emphatically say whether he heard a gunshot going off, an assertion which Ford's lawyer, Advocate André Bezuidenhout, tried to extract during cross-examination of Keuler.

Keuler said when he arrived at the scene there were three to five people looking at the burning vehicle.

One of them said he had tried to open the doors, but to no avail. He said nobody at the scene had an explanation for how the car caught alight.

Keuler was accompanied to court by one of Ford's private investigators, whose associate had called at the end of 2018 to take a statement from him.

In his statement he described returning to the scene the next morning and seeing the blackened remains of the car, a Ford badge and an object that looked like a brass bullet casing the size of an AA battery.

He said he called the investigating officer and told him what he saw, adding that he never picked up the object and could not say for sure if it was a bullet casing.

Nel pointed out that the investigating officer went and retrieved the object and confirmed that it was not a bullet casing.

He also questioned Keuler as to whether if his evidence about hearing something which "sounded almost like a shotgun" was introduced to him by the private investigator. Keuler said they were his own words and that he was not coerced into putting them in his statement.

The inquest continues.