“We cannot come to terms with the loss”

The funeral of Lorraine Rampersad, her daughter and son-in-law, Veroshnie and Mitchell Mahabeer, Jesse Mahabeer, and four children, Isabelle (12), Hannah (7), Leah (6) and Titus Mahabeer (3) will take place on Friday at the Aryan Hall in Khan Road, Raisethorpe.
Grieving family and friends are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy, many still numbed with shock that an entire family, including four young children, could be wiped out in a single accident.
The family was killed on the N2 highway from Umzumbe to Pietermaritzburg when their VW Golf collided head-on with a Ford Ranger bakkie. The family were returning from celebrating Rampersad’s birthday at the South Coast.
Riaan Rampersad, Lorraine Rampersad’s son and brother of Veroshnie Mahabeer, spoke to Public Eye in midst of funeral arrangements with the family’s elders, and said preparations for the funeral are still underway.
Despite the frantic planning keeping them busy, Rampersad could not hide their emotions, with the strain and enormity of the task ahead evident in his voice.
Pastor Bruce Allan, the uncle of Mitchell Mahbeer, said he cannot believe that he will be a part of the procession handling the funeral proceedings when not so long ago, he officiated the wedding of Veroshnie and Mitchell.
“I married them. It was such a beautiful occasion. They truly loved and cared for each other, and we had hopes of their family continuing to flourish, “said Allan.
Allan added that Veroshine, a homemaker and avid baker, loved spoiling her children with weekly cookie treats.
Lorraine Rampersad’s brother, Gerald Harry, said planning the funeral has been “really difficult” but said the family was overwhelmed by support from the community.
Harry, who is also the chairperson of Loop Street Police Station, said when he got the call, he could not believe such a tragedy had occurred in his family. “You hear of such things happening, one or two people losing their lives … not the entire family. All I could think was no, no not us.”
“It has been such a shock … we cannot come to terms with the loss,” said Harry
He said despite the emotional whirlwind they are going through, they still have the fondest memories of their lost loved ones.
He told Public Eye that the last time they had all spent the day together was at a relative’s wedding last November.
“We were all there. I remember thinking that I am at my happiest with my family. Never did I think in a few months we would be mourning.”
Springhaven Primary School, Principal Shabeer Sayed said the whole school community is grieving the loss of the three learners, Isabelle who was in Grade 6, Hannah in Grade 2 and Leah who had just started Grade 1.
“We convey our deepest condolences to the family and we are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of learners who showed so much enthusiasm,” said Sayed.
He added the school has delivered the learners final school pictures the children taken last year framed in gold frames to be displayed at Friday’s Funeral service.
The funeral is estimated to cost around R150 000. Morgan’s Funeral Services owner, Sumindhar Pillay, said his team is working tirelessly to give the family a dignified ceremony. The scale of the tragedy has tugged at the heartstrings of the city with hundreds expected to attend the funeral and the memorial. With the outpouring of grief many have pledged to offer the family assistance including offers from funeral parlours to undertake the funeral at no cost. The KZN Department of Transport has also pledged assistance.
An additional service is scheduled for Saturday at Truro Hall for distant relatives and members of community to pay their last respects.
MEC for Transport Community Safety and Liaison, Mxolisi Kaunda also stated during his visit to the family’s Northdale home in Woodpecker Road on Tuesday he was outraged at the lawlessness on the roads.
“It is always worrying to experience a loss of so many lives in one crash. It is mostly disturbing to note that four of the deceased are children whose futures have been robbed due to negligence and lawlessness,” said Kaunda. He pledged that the department would assist the family with the massive funeral costs associated with the tragedy. Many Pietermaritzburg residents have also pledged support to the family.
South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) director, Caro Smit, called on government to do more to curb drunk driving.
“South Africans drink an enormous amount of alcohol yearly, but alarmingly also drink then drive. Our death and injuries are increasing annually, even though we are a signatory to the ‘Decade of Action’ that commits to get deaths down by 50% by 2020,” said Smit.
Smit also added, “Our governments need to realise the enormous financial and emotional burdens crashes cause each country; develop the political will to bring down these deaths and injuries; and use best practice measures like enforcement of the laws to bring about reductions rather than appealing for behavioural changes by motorists and pedestrians.”

  AUTHOR
Bongeka Sibisi
Journalist

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