Metro

Man burnt to death as he ran off and lay himself down in tanker flames, ending his own life after watching wife die in a collision

Tragedy struck as a man after watching his wife die, killed himself.

“Can’t you see my wife is dead? Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”

These were the last words 61-year-old Ben Wiid spoke as he held on to his wife of 35 years, Riana, 58, his face pressed against hers in the wreck of their car in which she had died moments before.

Then, in a state of shock, the inconsolable Wiid rushed up a slope down which their car had rolled following a collision with a fuel tanker on the N2 close to Grabouw on Saturday. In full view of the burning tanker’s driver and other bystanders, Wiid lay down in the flames and burnt to death.

Kleinmond resident Ralf Zipfel on Tuesday related his last moments with Wiid, and how he had been completely unaware of what would happen next.

Zipfel and a group of others were cycling when they heard the impact of the collision. Zipfel saw the Wiids’ vehicle burst through a barrier along the road and down a slope, where it came to a stop in some bushes. He promptly ran over to assist.

“I was with him. He wouldn’t get out of the car. He kept telling us to leave him alone,” said Zipfel.

Wiid was embracing his wife. “My wife is dead. Please leave me alone. Just leave me! Can’t you see? Just leave me!”

These were Wiid’s last words as he clung to his wife’s corpse.

“He held his face to hers. She looked very peaceful. I kept thinking, what should I do, what should I do?” Zipfel recounted.

He warned Wiid that the tanker could explode at any moment, but he would not leave his wife’s side. He said he could hear blasts coming from the tanker, such as the tyres bursting from the heat.

Emergency services had been summoned and Zipfel thought there wasn’t much more that he could do, so he walked away from the vehicle. At that point, Wiid ran up the slope and did the unthinkable. In full view of everyone on the scene, as well as a woman filming the burning tanker, he ran into the flames and lay himself down.

“Oh, jirre, what is the man doing?” the horrified truck driver can be heard exclaiming in the video.

Zipfel says he wanted to approach the bystanders to tell them what he had experienced, since some of them had opined that Wiid’s actions were “selfish”.

A friend of the Wiids, who asked not to be named, on Tuesday told Netwerk24 that the couple had celebrated their 35th anniversary in March.

The friend said that she and Wiid had attended the same school and that he and Riana were extremely close. She added:

I firmly believe that, in that moment, he raised his hand in those flames, Riana took it and they went to the afterlife together.

She said the video taken at the scene was not a full reflection of what had happened. The shock Wiid experienced upon realising that his wife had died is not visible in the video.

“The true life drama didn’t take place in the flames. It happened inside that wreck.

“On Facebook, there are horrible people insinuating that the collision was intentional. That isn’t true. Ben simply lost his concentration in the moments before the accident. The truck driver tried to swerve to avoid the collision, while Ben swerved in the opposite direction. That is why the truck collided with the side where Riana was sitting,” the friend said.

The couple used to do everything together, she said. He was a retired pharmacist who had previously worked at Dis-Chem in Somerset West, and Riana was a teacher. They frequently transported their grandchildren and a baby seat was still seen attached inside their car at the scene of the accident.

According to the friend, the couple was on their way to Kleinmond from their home in Strand to collect a set of keys when the accident happened.

“The love between those two people… they were true soul mates.”

The couple is survived by two daughters, Maryke Grobbelaar and Chantel Bam, as well as three grandchildren.

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