The 16-year-old driver who caused a multi-vehicle accident which claimed the life of former Bulls and Springbok loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg has been charged with ‘felony murder’.
The 41-year-old Wannenburg, who played over 100 Super Rugby matches for the Bulls and 20 Tests for the Springboks, died late Friday in Houston, Texas, after a 16-year-old driver, fleeing from police, crashed into several cars.
Wannenburg had been living in Texas since 2016 where he initially played rugby and coached, but more recently he was involved in only coaching. According to AFP he also worked in the refrigeration industry.
Wannenburg’s young son, Francois, suffered serious injuries in the accident and is in a critical, but stable condition in Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. The former rugby player’s 10-year-old daughter, Isabelle, was also in the car, but escaped without any injuries.
According to Khou.com, a vigil was held in Wannenburg’s memory on Saturday.
“Everything the kids did, the family was so involved. He was such an involved father,” said Mandi McDougal of the Bravos Little League, for who Wannenburg coached.
Family friend Ericka Braun also told Khou.com, “He never met a stranger, anytime he was around he was always smiling, life of the party, everyone loved him.”
It is believed Wannenburg was also involved in coaching the Rice University rugby team this year.
Former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who coached Wannenburg at the Bulls, and is now the director of rugby at the SaberCats was quoted as saying: “People always say this when someone passes away but I really mean this: he was an unbelievable human being. He always had a smile, was always joking and laughing and always had time for people.
“I had a very soft spot for him. He was soft-hearted but an out-and-out team guy. Everybody loved Pedrie,” Meyer said.
Meanwhile Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez gave an update late Saturday about the teenage suspect who crashed into thee three vehicles.
He confirmed the suspect was 16 years of age, had been charged with felony murder, reckless aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, three counts of reckless aggravated assault causing bodily injury.”
He added the two passengers in the suspected driver’s vehicle – also both 16 – had sustained no life-threatening injuries.”
Eugene Eloff, a former Lions rugby coach in South Africa and the man who roped Wannenburg into coaching at the Austin Huns in 2016 and 2017, said he was devastated by the news of the former Boks’ death. He tweeted a picture of himself with the Wannenburg family.
Besides playing for the Bulls, where Wannenburg won three Super Rugby titles and five Currie Cups, he also turned out for Ulster, Castres, Oyonnax, Denver Stampede and Austin Elite.