Tow dispute leads to blows at accident scene

Blood stains on Ryno Smith's reflector jacket after he was assaulted.

Willem Swart (30) from Van Wettens Breakdown Services was arrested on Monday afternoon and appeared in the Nelspruit District Court on Tuesday, on charges of assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm.

Ryno Smith, a driver for Thompson’s Towing, was the victim of an alleged aggressive attack by Swart on Sunday afternoon, just after an accident scene had been cleared.

According to Smith, he had responded to an accident scene on the R40 near Kiaat Hospital. Two bakkies had collided, the drivers were injured and were taken to hospital.

“I scanned the registration number of the one bakkie with an app that immediately authorises me to tow it with the insurance company.”

Smith hooked the bakkie up and as he turned his vehicle around, Swart allegedly stood in front of it to prevent him from leaving the scene. “I got out my vehicle and told him I also have to look after my family and do my job. With this, he repeatedly said I was threatening his family and started hitting me.”

Nelspruit Post obtained a video of the assault, which can be seen on www.nelspruitpost.co.za. Swart can be seen assaulting Smith and repeating that Smith wanted “to take out his family”.

Covered in blood, Smith was taken to Rob Ferreira Hospital straight afterwards, where he was treated.

Nelspruit Post spoke to Swart regarding the allegations against him. He responded by saying that Smith had lied regarding what happened on the day and that he had witnesses.

“I will be laying a charge against Smith today,” he added.

He then referred the newspaper to his legal advisor. Attorney Jan du Toit said his client denied the allegations made against him by the complainant and would not be commenting with regard to what happened, but will be stating his case in court.

The dispute between the two breakdown services has been ongoing for a year now. Last year another driver from Thompson’s and a paramedic laid charges of intimidation against Swart, and then retracted the cases.

During these instances, the paper had obtained a voice note in which Swart stated he would be taking vehicles from Thompson’s as their business only belonged in White River.

Owner of Thompson’s Towing, Tommie Pretorius said his company had suffered financial losses over the year due to the feud.

“None of the other towing companies have problems with working together at scenes, but Swart’s behaviour towards my drivers is unacceptable,” he said.

Pretorius stated he had gone to Van Wettens many times and spoken to their tactical manager, Morné Fourie regarding Swart’s behaviour. “He told me that this was between the drivers and had nothing to do with Van Wettens,” Pretorius said.

He added that he would be taking legal action against Van Wettens for failing to address the situation.

“Would someone have to be murdered before they did something?”

Fourie responded that their drivers have also been threatened by Thompson’s drivers. Regarding

Pretorius’ comment that he said the matter was between the drivers, Fourie said he had no further comment and would rather see how things transpired.

As for the assault, Fourie said he did not approve of the behaviour and was awaiting the outcome of the court matter before taking further action.

Swart was released on bail of R500 which he obtained at Nelspruit Police Station on Monday.

The matter was postponed until August 21.

  AUTHOR
Tereasa Dias

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