By Quintin van Jaarsveld
The family of late Olympic mountain biker Burry Stander are looking at the positives in the wake of Charles Stander’s devastating cycling accident at the weekend.
Charles, who was wearing a helmet, sustained four broken vertebrae – two in his neck and two in his back – and broke two front teeth when he hit a ditch covered by overgrown grass and was sent over his handlebars during an advanced group ride at the Burry Stander Bike Park in Umtentweni on Saturday.
The 62-year-old is recovering at Hibiscus Private Hospital, where he underwent successful neck and back surgery on Monday, and while they are fully aware of the long road to recovery that lies ahead for Charles, the Standers are grateful he’s alive and didn’t suffer any catastrophic or permanent injury.
“It is a big setback for all of us and came as a big shock, but at the same time, we are extremely grateful that it is not worse,” Charles’ wife Mandie told eHowzit.
“Based on how severely the vertebrae in his neck were broken, Doctor Freek [Coetzee] said he could easily have died on impact, just like Burry.
“He could also have been paralysed by the fractures in his back, so we are well aware of how fortunate Charles is.
“We know it’s going to be a long road to recovery, but the fact that he is alive and not paralysed is a silver lining and something positive we can hold on to.”
Mandie said her husband is still in a lot of pain.
“Being in such pain, he is very much living in the moment and taking things day by day, so I don’t think he is really thinking about what happened and his injuries too much from an emotional point of view.”
Charles is on the mend and could be discharged this weekend, however, doctors will continue to monitor him closely before a final decision is made.
Charles’ crash has further compounded the Standers’ woes.
The culpable homicide trial of Njabulo Nyawose, the taxi driver involved in the accident that claimed Burry’s live during the two-time Cape Epic winner’s training ride in Shelly Beach on January 3, 2013, still hasn’t reached a conclusion.
The latest development in the trial heard in the Port Shepstone Magistrate’s Court earlier this month saw the defence, in a surprise change in strategy, ask to view video footage of the events leading up to the accident.
The defence had previously opposed the admissibility of the video because of “its dubious origin.”
The video was admitted as evidence and viewed, after which Magistrate Charmaine Barnard stated the star cyclist should have been visible to Nyawose, who had previously testified that his vision was obscured by a white Audi.
The trial was adjourned to 24 March for closing arguments.
“It is difficult and you do feel overwhelmed at times,” Mandie admitted, adding, “We just try to stay strong in our faith in God…the strength we’ve received from Him has kept us going.”
Mandie added his accident won’t discourage Charles, a provincial mountain biking champion, from cycling.
“Cycling is Charles’ passion, it’s what he lives for. He has just completed a 700km race on the old Cape Epic route and came through it unscathed.
“You can’t stop living or live your life in fear, so Charles will definitely be back on his bike.”
For the time being, the Standers – as they’ve done since Burry’s fatal accident – will remain as positive and as mentally strong as possible.
“The fact that it [the accident] happened here on the South Coast and not in the Cape is a blessing in itself,” she concluded.