Pedrie Wannenburg, a former South Africa rugby player, died after his car was struck by a teenage driver who was fleeing from police outside Houston. Wannenburg was 41.
South Africa Rugby announced Wannenburg’s death on Saturday and said he “represented his country with aplomb” during his 20 Test matches with the Springboks from 2002-07.
Wannenburg was pronounced dead after being flown to hospital on Friday evening, the Harris county sheriff’s office said. His eight-year-old son was also hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. His wife and daughter were also in the vehicle but are understood to have escaped serious injury.
The 16-year-old driver of the car that struck Wannenburg’s vehicle and two others has been charged with felony murder, reckless aggravated assault-serious bodily injury, and three counts of aggravated assault-bodily injury, Gonzalez said on Twitter. The teenager’s name was not released. The driver fled after police tried to conduct a traffic stop, Gonzalez said.
Wannenburg made his debut for the Springboks against France in Paris in 2002. He won several Super Rugby titles with the Pretoria-based Bulls in the 2000s.
“Pedrie will be remembered as one of the first real versatile loose forwards who could play in any position in the back row and even though he played in only 20 Tests, his record in the colors of the Bulls, during a period where they dominated on all levels, is nearly unmatched,” South Africa Rugby president Mark Alexander said in a statement.
One friend remembered the player as a “gentle giant”.
“Hard as nails on the field and soft as jelly off it. A gentle giant,” a South Africa-based friend, who requested anonymity, told AFP. “Words fail me. I am battling to accept that Pedrie is no longer among us.
He was a lekker oke [good guy] who loved his family, his friends and rugby. He did not deserve to die so young and in such terrible circumstances.
Wannenburg went on to play for clubs in Northern Ireland, France and the United States before retiring to begin coaching. He was coaching Rice University’s rugby club at the time of his death.