A former South African rugby star who played 20 tests for his country was killed in a shocking car accident in America.
Former South African rugby star Pedrie Wannenburg, who died after a multi-vehicle accident in Texas this weekend, was a “gentle giant,” a family friend said confirming the tragedy.
Wannenburg, capped 20 times by the Springboks as a loose striker, has reportedly died in Austin after a runaway police vehicle crashed into the back of one driven by the 41-year-old South African.
An Austin police spokesman said a 16-year-old suspect who ignored a pull-over call escaped and hit the rear of the vehicle driven by Wannenburg at an intersection.
“Hard as nails in the field and soft as jelly. A gentle giant, “Pretoria-based friend from Wannenburg, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
“Words fail me. I am struggling to accept that Pedrie is no longer with us.
“He was a lekker oke (good guy) who loved his family, friends and rugby. He didn’t deserve to die so young and in such terrible circumstances. “
Wannenburg and his son, Francois, were taken to hospital where the former Springbok succumbed to his injuries. His son is recovering as his wife and daughter, Isabelle, have escaped serious injuries.
“If there’s a silver lining to this dark occasion, it’s that the rest of the family escaped death,” said the friend who had known Wannenburg since high school.
As reported by the New York post, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said a driver involved in the crash hit three vehicles and even a fourth who couldn’t stop in time collided with the scene. In total, six people were hospitalized, according to local firefighters.
The deputy sheriff who chased the suspected teenager “is still talking to the district attorney’s office” about the circumstances of the chase, Major Quincey Whitaker of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The sheriff’s office said the teenager was charged with criminal homicide, reckless aggravated assault that resulted in severe personal injury, and aggravated assault that resulted in personal injury.
Eugene Eloff, former coach of the Johannesburg-based Lions franchise, said on Facebook: “I’m broken. I have no words. I just heard that my friend Pedrie Wannenburg died in a car accident.
“Devastating news. RIP wonderful man. We will miss you so much. My heart goes out to Evette (his wife) and to the children. I keep you in my heart and in my prayers. ”
Former Ulster teammate Dan Tuohy told the BBC “Pedrie was always so talented and when he turned it on, wow, he could really play. He just read the game very well.”
The 196cm striker joined the Pretoria Bulls franchise in 2001 and later lined up for Ulster, Castres and Oyonnax, before moving to America to represent the Denver Stampede and Austin Elite.
Born in the northeastern city of Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), Wannenburg made 99 consecutive appearances for the Bulls and played for the Springboks between 2002 and 2007.
He was considered unfortunate not to have been a part of the 2007 Springboks Rugby World Cup team which went on to beat England in the Paris final.
He moved to the United States six years ago and worked in the refrigeration industry and coached the West Houston Lions.
Originally published as Suspect accused after South African rugby star, 41, was killed in horror car accident