Simulated fire tests show there was no reason the late Reshall Jimmy could not have escaped his Ford Kuga before a massive blaze which burnt it out, the company's US-based expert told the Western Cape High Court (Cape Town) yesterday.

According to a News24 report, John Loud, principal engineer of US-based Exponent Incorporated, showed Judge Robert Hennie a video of tests he conducted on a model of the vehicle.

The video shows that in a fire started with a 15cm flame from a propane lighter under the passenger seat of the vehicle, small wisps of smoke emerge from the area at the corner near the glove compartment. The wisps form a light cloud and as the small fire grows, plastic starts melting and dripping.

According to Loud's readings, he found around 250m parts of carbon monoxide (CO) and zero hydrogen cyanide on the driver's side, in this simulation of one of his hypotheses presented during the inquest into Jimmy's death. He said it would take at least 450m parts of CO just to give a person a headache.

There was ample time for the driver to exit the vehicle on the basis of these tests,’ Loud submitted.

Lobby group AfriForum, which is representing the family with a view to possible further prosecution for Jimmy's death after the NPA declined, is represented by Advocate Gerrie Nel. He objected to the statement that Jimmy would not have been overcome by the gasses or the smoke, saying that Loud was not a medical expert, and could not testify on whether Jimmy would have been able to leave the vehicle or not.

Full News24 report

Hennie queried several aspects of Loud’s tests‚ including their credibility, says a report in The Herald. He noted that they were made more than three years after the Jimmy fire, were paid for by Ford‚ and no objective observer was present.

This is the difficulty I have with this whole process. This is how we deal with evidence in SA: we get either someone from the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions to be an objective observer. The credibility of the tests might be questioned. Someone from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions or someone from the US with similar authority should have been present‚’ he said.

Hennie also said that Loud was not a medical expert and could therefore not testify on the effects of the gases on the human body.

Full report in The Herald (subscription needed)