Robbers die in M3 crash

Police investigate the scene where alleged crowbar gang thieves crashed into on-coming traffic. Picture: Maciej Soltynski

Diep River police must have felt a sense of déjà vu when a high-speed pursuit of a suspected crowbar gang ended with a crash.

Officers chased the robbery suspects through traffic after an off-duty reservist spotted their car in Meadowridge on Wednesday October 12.

In May police, had also chased suspected crowbar gang members after their car was seen in Tokai (“Chase yields gang arrest,” Bulletin, May 5).

Both incidents unfolded in a strangely similar way, albeit it with very different endings: in the May incident, the robbery suspects were arrested; Wednesday’s chase cost the suspects their lives.

Warrant Officer Keith Chandler, of Diep River police, said three of the robbers who were arrested in May were released on bail, and the third, who was wanted in connection with another case, was remanded in custody.

Police were unable to confirm if the same men who were released on bail were involved in the crash on Wednesday. Warrant Officer Chandler said it was unlikely as several groups of robbers used the crowbar modus operandi.

On Wednesday, the reservist drove past the suspected robbers’ vehicle in Meadowridge. He recognised the car’s registration from an alert on the community WhatsApp group and parked his car in the next road to double check the licence plate. He then sent out an alert, Warrant Officer Chandler said.

The licence plate number had been circulated in the group because the car had been linked to an earlier crime.

Police, the neighbourhood watch and security companies responded and the men fled with the police and security firms in hot pursuit.

The chase continued onto the M3 where the vehicle crashed into two cars, in oncoming traffic, near the Firgrove exit, and caused the M3 outgoing lanes and one ingoing lane to be closed at Ladies Mile.

“They tried to cross over the median and crashed,” Warrant Officer Chandler said.

“They tried to make the U-turn at a speed in excess of 70km an hour.” ER24 said one of the vehicles the suspects collided with had overturned.

“A second wrecked light motor vehicle lay on the side of the road while the third had come to a stop in the middle of the highway.”

The four suspects were trapped in the wrecked car. Three died on the scene. Rescue workers used the jaws of life to free the critically injured fourth man who died in hospital the next day.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said: “Stolen household items were recovered in the suspects’ vehicle.”

Three other people were injured in the crash, including a mother and her five-year-old son. They were admitted to Constantiaberg Mediclinic with minor injuries and discharged the same day.

The Bulletin was unable to find out what happened to the third person, a man, who was injured in the crash.

ER24 spokesman Russel Meiring said the man was not treated by their service and referred the Bulletin to the province’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS), but the Department of Health said no EMS ambulances had been on the scene.

Constantiaberg Mediclinic said the man was not treated there