Eight years after her son was electrocuted at Killarney race track, a Pretoria mother has reached a settlement with the race track owners for R180 000 in damages – a significant departure from her earlier damages claim of R2.6 million in the Western Cape High Court.
Nathaniel Tremayne Burgher, 12, died in May 2002, allegedly after touching a traffic control boom at the race track that made contact with an 11 kilovolt electricity line.
His mother, Elaine Burgher, claimed in court papers that Denis Joubert, Western Province Racing Club chairman, Frank Creese, who was the chairman of the club’s carting sub-committee, and sub-committee member Mark de Nobrega had acted unlawfully and negligently in allowing the boom to be erected in a way that enabled it to make contact with the electrical surge.
Burgher claimed the erection of the boom was in violation of the minimum safety clearance provided for in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and exposed the public to a hazard. She also claimed that a health and safety officer should have been present at the race track and the local authority’s approval should have been obtained before the boom was erected.
Burgher said she suffered from emotional shock, stress, grief, depression and anxiety, and was unable to work as a result of her son’s death.
She claimed R8 700 for medical and funeral expenses for her son, future medical expenses of R260 000 for herself, related to long-term counseling, R850 000 in general damages related to her shock and grief and R1.5m in past and future loss of income, as calculated by an actuary. The total claim came to about R2.6m.
In their plea filed in 2005, Joubert, Creese and De Nobrega denied all allegations that the boy had died because of negligence on their part or that they were liable to pay any damages. They said the boom had been installed by a contractor appointed under the authority of the Western Province Racing Club’s carting sub-committee. The racing club runs the Killarney race track.
Nathaniel’s uncle, Douglas Lowry, who had taken him and four friends to the race track, spoke to the press in 2002. He had said the children were playing near the boom when Nathaniel touched it and yelled that he had been shocked. Moments later he died.
Creese at the time described the incident as a “freak accident”. He was quoted as saying: “We’re not sure what happened and we’ll have to wait for the police report. However, we would not have something at the track which we considered to be dangerous.”
Source: Cape Times