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Francois Rossouw: It pays to do things properly

2 June 2014

I recently wrote an article about a 4×4 vehicle that overturned on a dune in Namibia. The roof-top tent prevented it from rolling over completely. Had the tent not been properly fitted, things could have gone horribly wrong.

Recently we had another case where a good quality roof rack possibly saved lives. Gawie Deyssel was in our group on a trip to Namibia in December. He had a roof-top tent fitted to his Jeep Rubicon. Gawie had the choice of either using the flimsy lightweight mountings supplied with the product, or fitting a proper roof rack. He decided on a decent Front Runner roof rack and mounted the tent onto that.

The roof of the Jeep Rubicon is very thin, so the roof rack was designed to mount onto the roll bar that, in turn, is mounted onto the chassis. It also had two strong support bars at the front that were also mounted on the chassis.  Because of the extreme stress the vehicles take in the dunes, Gawie made sure everything was solid and safe.

After the trip Gawie removed the tent, but kept the roof rack on the Jeep, not realising that it would be a lifesaving decision. Most of us usually remove the roof rack when it is not in use to save fuel, but since this was a bit of a mission, Gawie decided to leave it on.

In January, Gawie went to Lesotho on business. His secretary, Joey, went with him. When they returned home one afternoon, they were held up at the border and the sun was setting. It also started raining heavily. The road was narrow, wet and dark and visibility was bad.

Between Ficksburg and Rosendal they were travelling at about 100 km/hour when they hit a horse in the road. They just did not see the black horse at night in the heavy rain.

The impact was severe. At first they had no idea what had happened, but realised they had not collided with another vehicle.

The impact destroyed the front of the Jeep and the unfortunate horse would probably have gone through the windscreen but for the robust roof rack with the strong supports at the front. These lifted the horse, causing it to slide over the roof and it landed at the back, at the side of the road. Chunks of the horse were stuck onto the roof rack and strewn across the road.

The Jeep was a write-off. The engine moved backwards, but thanks to the very strong roof rack, the two occupants escaped without injury.

The big lesson to be learned from this incident was that it pays to do things the right way. Gawie and Joey were stranded at the side of the road, but were alive and unharmed.

Fortunately they had cell phone reception and called the police and the insurance company. The response was outstanding. The police were soon on the scene and the insurance company sent a breakdown vehicle from Ficksburg to load the Jeep.

The accident happened close to the turn-off to Moolmanshoek private game reserve, where the RSG 4×4 Club goes every Easter weekend, so Gawie phoned them. Within ten minutes the owners were there and took the two stranded people to the lodge for the night. Next day they were fetched and taken to Pretoria.

One thing is for sure: Gawie will never drive a vehicle that is not fitted with a decent, strong roof rack that is properly mounted.