A Pinetown driver has become an overnight internet sensation after a video clip showed him apparently passed out behind the wheel, a beer in his hand, at a busy intersection.
Wesley Adams was driving in Pinetown on Monday afternoon when he saw the man, who had fallen asleep, stopped at traffic lights.
A startled motorist looks at a man apparently passed out inside his car, a beer in his hand, in St John's Avenue, Pinetown, on Monday afternoon. The picture was taken by a driver who tried in vain to get a man who was driving a police vehicle to help. Credit: Wesley Adams
Adams said on Tuesday that he flagged down a police vehicle and asked the driver, who identified himself as an officer, but who was dressed in civilian clothing, for assistance.
They drove to the scene together.
“The driver had passed out.”
“He had a can of beer in his hand. There was a bottle of beer in the passenger seat and his cellphone,” said Adams.
The incident came just a few weeks after transport minister Ben Martins said in Durban his department was considering changes to the law to make the blood-alcohol limit for driving zero.
Martins said authorities had no choice but to take an extremely tough line after the road death toll from December 1 to January 8 was recorded at 1465 and the biggest killers were drunk drivers.
Adams said he told the policeman to help the man out of the car and detain him.
“The engine was still running, so I tried to remove the keys, but I struggled because I am not familiar with automatic cars,” he said.
Motorists looked on as an argument ensued when he began shouting at the policeman to act.
“The policeman had no idea what to do. I dialled 10111 on my phone and gave it to him,” said Adams.
As the policeman spoke on Adams’s phone with 10111 officials, the car, an Audi, “started rolling towards oncoming traffic”.
“I quickly jumped through the passenger window and pulled up the handbrake. The driver woke up. I shouted at the cop to pull him out and immobilise him, but the driver drove off, leaving the cop bewildered,” Adams said. “There was no car chase, no interest in pursuit by the policeman.”
He said another police car drove by as they “frantically tried to wave them down”. But they looked at us and drove off, he said.
Adams then phoned 10111 at 4.45pm and told a policewoman about the incident.
“Who knows if the guy had an accident and could have killed himself or someone else.”
He said he hoped the police would take action against the policeman if he was an officer, and if he was not, “Why was he using a state car?”
Police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said he had checked with Pinetown police, but they did not have a record of the incident.
“It is very vague. Witnesses must make statements to the police. You can’t make such serious allegations and be faceless,” he said.
“We need a statement and then try and find out who was driving which car.”
Gareth Newham, of the Institute for Security Studies, said the officer should have ensured the car’s engine was turned off, and the handbrake was up, then he should have tried to wake the man.
“If the man cannot breathe then phone an ambulance. If he is fine then do a breathalyser (test), arrest the man and charge him with driving under the influence.”
Photographs of the incident were submitted to Mdunge. Adams said he would be willing to speak to police to provide details.
A YouTube video of the man had more than 1400 likes on Tuesday. Lauven Maharaj commented on Facebook: “I applaud your sense of justice and willingness to go out of your way to prevent a tragedy, however police officers are purely cosmetic… all police do is harass those that don’t need to be and let criminals have their own way…”
Andile Moyo said: “Dear Wesley. You are coming across as someone who doesn’t know South Africa. You think that every time there’s a crisis you’ll call the cops? Don’t you know our police are cosmetic?”
The driver could not be reached for comment. - The Mercury