October 23 2009 at 01:56PM
By Arthi Sanpath
Horst Dieter Zerna, the man who fought a gun battle with hijackers in Pinetown yesterday morning, died several hours later in the operating theatre.
The 57-year-old Pinetown-based man, an employee of Simba Carpet Cleaning, was targeted by armed men at the corner of Pine and Seventh roads in Ashley.
He was putting up signboards reading "Carpet cleaning in progress" when a silver Toyota Tazz with three people inside pulled up behind his maroon VW Caravelle.
In a matter of minutes, and several gun shots later, one man lay dead on the road next to the Caravelle.
The second man and Zerna then exchanged fire and both were wounded, according to a witness who was watching from his garden.
The third man then made a hasty retreat, reversing into a light pole and smashing the back windscreen. The witness said that as the man had sped off he had struck the second man.
As Zerna's family gathered at the hospital yesterday, the police were searching for the third suspect. Zerna's daughter, who answered the phone earlier in the afternoon, said her father was in surgery.
A family friend later answered the phone, saying Zerna had died after coming out of surgery, at about 3.30pm.
'People cannot live in such a situation where criminals take people's lives by force'
Blood splatters dotted the botched hijacking scene yesterday as investigators marked the position of shell casings and broken glass that littered the scene.
Superintendent Danelia Veldhuizen said the second man, who was shot in the back of the head by Zerna, was in a critical condition at RK Khan Hospital.
Lisa Thomas, a public relations officer at Life Entabeni Hospital where Zerna was taken, said he had suffered blood loss as a result of the gunshot wounds.
Warwick Chapman, the ward councillor for the Pinetown area, said hijacking was one of the biggest concerns in Pinetown.
"It affects businesses and residents, and people cannot live in such a situation where criminals take people's lives by force," he said.
In July last year, a Pinetown resident shot and killed a man who was attempting to hijack his mother-in-law's car.
The man also exchanged gunfire with a second hijacker who, despite being shot in the abdomen, drove off. His body was later found in Mariannhill.
This article was originally published on page 3 of Daily News on October 23, 2009