Medics rescue hijack victim from gun-wielding protesters

HAZYVIEW – A protest that has been dragging on for weeks, reached boiling point last week when disgruntled residents of Marite threatened to set alight an ambulance. The paramedics were attempting to treat a patient showing symptoms of a heart attack.

The ongoing dispute was due to the residents’ demand that a particular stretch of road be tarred. White River resident, Mr Piet Coetser, was transporting a TLB from Hoedspruit when he came upon 300 to 500 people protesting in the road last Monday.

“They came from all directions and as I approached, some jumped on my truck and opened my doors.” One grabbed and jerked the steering wheel in an attempt to flip the vehicle over. They took his keys and spare keys. One of his attackers aimed a pistol at him. He thought he was going to die. “Afterwards I couldn’t sleep for three nights.”
They also threatened to set his truck alight and wanted to use the TLB to further barricade the road with trees. He begged them not to, and they agreed, but hijacked another two approaching trucks while he was on the scene.
Coetser then felt an ache in his chest.
An ambulance was right behind them. Senior paramedic at Lowmed, Ms Ansie Pretorius, and her team were on a call-out to an accident scene near Hoedspruit. After discovering that it had been a false alarm, they returned to Hazyview, but drove into a dead end at Marite.
The protesters had completely obstructed the road with the truck which they had hijacked moments before. Pretorius found Coetser highly distressed and seeking urgent medical attention.
“He complained about severe chest pain and anxiety, and his blood pressure was extremely high, telltale signs of a myocardial infarction (heart attack),” Pretorius said. While she was taking the victim’s vital signs, a truck pulled up alongside her.
Pretorius managed to drive over the curb to evade being boxed in. Protesters surrounded the ambulance and threatened to set it alight if they did not leave the scene. Security personnel on the scene came to their aid. “We moved our ambulance away from the scene,” Pretorius said. Coetser was taken to Mediclinic Nelspruit in a serious but stable condition and discharged shortly afterwards.
After the police got involved, the situation was brought under control.
A resident told Lowvelder that they could not get their children to school due to the protest. Tourists and locals were warned to avoid the area and had to travel to Bushbuckridge via the Graskop Road, especially in the early hours and late in the afternoons when the protesters usually took to the streets.
The protest had been cleared and the roads reopened at the time of going to press.

Also read: Sopa causes mayhem on the roads

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Stefan de Villiers

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