Crushed Steel……..

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In memory of Billy Bryley.

In the hunting field we prepare ourselves mentally as Pro hunters for that day when things go wrong and some one is hurt or god forbid  killed under out supervision. The ever present danger when hunting big game is high on the list of concerns and daily life in a country with a very high crime rate is never far from my mind as a pro hunter. However nothing on this earth prepared me for this day the 2nd of October 2011.

Adam Bunkel and Phil Johnson are regular hunting clients from Johannesburg and good friends. Adam and Phil and I have hunted a lot together and have enjoyed some wonderful trips from the Northern Cape to natal. It was on there hunt in October that this ill fated day occurred.

Billy Bryley was a good friend of Adams and resided in Durban. He was invited on the hunt but had informed us he was not going to be able to make it due to work commitments.  The hunt had proceeded with out incident and on Saturday Billy phoned and said his scheduled had opened up and he was going to come through for the Saturday eve and Sunday. He would hunt Sunday.

Phil and I had been attempting for Kudu in the ladysmith area. Adam and Roy had been hunting at Lowlands for Vaal Rhebuck and Mountain Reedbuck.

We decided on Saturday night that Billy, Phil and I would head up to Ladysmith and look for Eland and Kudu. This sounded like a super idea and everyone was excited for the next days hunt.

The dawn broke and as per usual I planned vehicles, cool drinks, rifles and animal recovery equipment. My task for the day was no small order and Eland and a Kudu in one day. For this I would need a single cab vehicle and decided to take the land cruiser. I packed the cool boxes and gear and headed across to the lodge. With light hearted banter and jokes flying the day was starting as any other. Being a Sunday time was a problem and we hurried to get onto the road. At 5.45 we hit the road. Diesel was a concern and I stopped at Midway garage to refuel.

The next events will live with me forever.

We drove out of midway and both Phil and Billy were big guys so I had Phil drive and I sat in the middle between the two big men. Bhegi my tracker was sitting on the back with both tracking dogs Tex and Turkish.

W e had gone down the N3 and past the wagendrift dam and proceeded up a long hill. It was early and there were no other vehicles or trucks on the road. We drove along as usual and Billy and Phil chatted about there families, Billy started telling us about his four year old son and we laughed together.

fb_img_1474745795885The next instant a thundering crash came from the vehicle and it seemed to sink in front and rise at the back, almost as if the front axle had fallen off. Phil shouted and battled to keep control of the land cruiser it instantly picked up momentum and soon barreled towards the barrier. I saw exactly what was happening and braced for the impact. The truck hit the barrier and started to rotate “head over heals” or tailgate over bonnet. I saw my rifle which was lying on the dash board start to float around the cab. This was not right. Things for a few seconds seemed to be deathly silent. Then I could feel the vehicle rotate over and saw the ground coming fast. I braced for impact and knowing my neck is week I through my arms over my face and head and braced for impact. I felt myself push past Phil on my right and at this stage do not remember Billy being in the vehicle. The truck impacted and I felt myself hit the sun visor above the windscreen. The sound of smashing glass and crushing steel was like an explosion.  I last my grasp of the situation.

My eyes open and there was a deathly silence to the scene, I knew that the unthinkable had just happened. I looked straight ahead and immediately saw Billy there was no confusion he had been killed. I looked to my right and saw the vehicle; it had been crushed and wrapped like a coke can. My thoughts went to Phil was he and was he alive, I feared the worse looking at the vehicle. Then Bhegi where was he? The railings he had been sitting in were bent and buckled like a birds nest. There was no possible way in my mind that he could have got out of that vehicle. My dogs I was certain could not have survived such a accident.

Your mind suddenly pauses in all this and you think “ Well everyone is dead so I must be too!”

You start thinking well if I am dead? Does my body still function. Does my neck work? Yes but a lot of blood. Do my legs work? Yes but a lot of blood. Ok how about the arms, look left? Here is a problem my left shoulder was sitting on my chest and my arm seemed to be the wrong way around I was looking at the elbow. Ok well that is not good. Then for my right arm? I could not get my head around to look at it as my shoulder was under my ear. I could see my arm and it seemed to be twisted around twice I could see my elbow and then my hand normally. I knew now I had problems but I was alive..

At this I heard Phil start to move in the vehicle. He was alive. He managed to get out the vehicle and stumbled over to see where we were.  He called to me and I responded as best I could breathing was difficult for me and the pain was starting to arrive in truck loads.

With this I heard voices approaching and soon saw a familiar unexpected face our butchery managers Dad Dug Stanley had seen the accident and recognized my vehicle. He had stopped to help. He phoned for help and soon the cavalry arrived. An off duty paramedic was on scene and attempted to help me and Phil. I could not get up or move. I still battled to breath and the pain had now arrived in its entirety.

Whilst all this was going on I noticed Turkish my one hound walk and he went and lay with Billy. Then I saw Tex he rushed to the vehicle and jumped back on the crushed steel of what remained of the land cruiser. They were alive… How I will never know.

People were arriving now and the pain was now becoming unbearable and soon now it was all I could deal with. It came in waves and the seemed to ascend in severity. All I could do now is fight the pain.

The next minutes turned into hours and all I could do is fight the pain. My brother arrived and that brought some relief. I asked him firstly were was Bhegi and was he alive. He replied in the affirmative. What a relief.

I noticed friends collecting my gear that was scattered all over the scene rifles, bullets, cool drinks, and everything else imaginable was scattered all over the veld. This is really when you think all is lost.

But I was in a fight now against the pain and this took my mind away.

I was placed on a trauma board and carried to an awaiting ambulance. Here my aunt came into my view and told me I had to make a choose. Right now right here I had to choose whether to live or die. I knew now how serious this must look if she is saying these things to me.

The ambulance doors were closed and we started driving. We were met by the advanced life support guys and he assured me the rest of the trip would go bye with out me knowing about it. The morphine went to work.

We got to Pietermaritzburg and I was rushed to emergency. Here they cut all my clothes off and started to asses the damage. After scans and x-rays it was discovered that my right shoulder blade had disintegrated. My left arm was badly dislocated. My pelvis was intact and my spinal cord was ok. I had a number of lacerations to my legs knees and head. These were cleaned and stapled.  My shoulder was operated on a couple of days later and two steal plates were put into the shoulder blade.

Billy had been killed instantly and mass organ destruction was his cause of death. It was unbelievable to me that a client of mine had been killed in this fashion. Unbelievable if I had not gone through it myself.

Phil had bad whiplash but was reasonable ok. He had been wearing his seat belt.

Bhegi had a severe laceration to his face. Luckily his eye site was fine and he also recovered well.

Tex and Turkish were rushed to the estcourt vets were they were assisted. Turkish went into very severe shock and nearly died during the night. Tex was ok and suffered a slight hernia. Turkish had also sustained a cracked pelvis.

This was a nightmare I would not wish on anyone.

Now I bet you all asking well what happened??

The unbelievable truth is a Toyota Yaris hit us in the rear of the land cruiser, going at 170 kilometers per hour. The transfer of forces had done the rest.

A day that will rank as my worst in my hunting career.