Durban – There was traffic chaos in sweltering heat on KwaZulu-Natal’s two major freeways on Friday with a Wild West-style shoot-out on the N2 between Umdloti and the King Shaka International Airport off-ramp, while a horrific truck crash in the early hours of the morning just south of Howick shut the N3 southbound for most of the day.
One robber died in the shoot-out, and a security officer was injured.
By late on Friday afternoon, commuters and those heading for the airport on the N2 were backed between the KwaMashu off-ramp and Umdloti.
The dramatic high-speed chase and shoot-out took place about lunchtime when a Toyota Rav 4, taken in a house robbery in Mtunzini, was being pursued by several SAPS units and Tracker and security companies.
IPSS security operations spokesperson Paul Herbst confirmed their officers, along with Z1 Security and other security companies, as well as police, were tracking the two suspects in the stolen vehicle after the house robbery.
Herbst said the vehicle was spotted on the N2 heading towards Durban and a decision was made to block the vehicle’s path.
“On the N2, occupants in the vehicle fired at security services and the police.
“A pursuit ensued and gunfire was exchanged,” he said.
Reaction Unit SA (Rusa), whose officers were on the scene, also said the suspects opened fire.
“The suspects rammed into a pursuing Toyota Hilux bakkie and a VW Amarok.
“The gunmen lost control of their vehicle which veered off the highway and crashed into a tree in the centre median.”
The two men abandoned the car and tried to flee, shooting as they ran across the northbound freeway.
“The robbers continued firing as they crossed the northbound lane on foot. One suspect was shot dead, while his accomplice fled into the bush adjacent to the highway.
“A 9mm pistol with an extended magazine was found next to the deceased,” said the Rusa statement.
One of the first responders in the Hilux bakkie was injured during the shooting, the bakkie peppered with multiple gunshots.
Late on Friday, eThekwini metro police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersadh, confirmed that neither north nor southbound lanes were closed after the shootout, but that traffic was heavily backed up on the northbound carriageway.
The scene remained active in the early evening, with police still searching the area for the second suspect who had fled into the bush.
Sewpersadh said: “With the M4 currently closed (because of storm damage), the N2 could not be closed. There is a huge back-up of northbound traffic but it is moving slowly.
“One of the accomplices escaped and is still at large.”
KZN SAPS media spokesperson, Colonel Thembeka Mbhele, said information on the shooting was still being gathered and she could not release an official comment.
Also causing freeway chaos was a head-on accident between two trucks close to Howick in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Both vehicles exploded in flames on the N3 southbound. Two people died at the scene.
The southbound freeway was closed, with traffic being diverted to the R103, while northbound traffic also became congested because of “rubbernecking” by motorists.
KZN Emergency Medical Services spokesman Robert McKenzie confirmed both vehicles caught alight after the crash.
“Tragically two people have sustained fatal injuries,” he said.
Late yesterday, N3 Toll Concession commercial manager Con Roux said the freeway had been closed for eight hours.
“It was hectic on the freeway with an estimated backlog of about 15km. It has taken the whole day to clear the accident and the R103, which was the alternative route for light motor vehicles, also became gridlocked,” said Roux.
He added that there would also be economic consequences because so many trucks were delayed in the traffic backlog.
“The economic loss of having so many trucks standing will be massive.
“In the early hours of the morning there is always a concentration of trucks on the N3 in that area because they have travelled through the night from Gauteng,” he said.
Roux also said there had been drivers using the emergency lanes.
“We ask drivers to not drive in this lane, it is not only illegal but it can also cost somebody else’s life.”
By early Friday evening Mariann hill Toll Plaza was severely backed up as the long queue of trucks reached the outskirts of Durban.