“He had been on so many dangerous assignments before: filming rebels in Africa, filming in Pakistan and Iraq. For him to go like this, it’s just unbelievable.”
These are the words of former political journalist Cliff Saunders and father of legendary cameraman Dudley Saunders, who died on Monday after being hit by a train in Soweto.
After consultation yesterday with Dudley’s assistant cameraman, who witnessed the accident, Saunders put to rest speculation surrounding the beloved former SABC, M-Net, Special Assignment and Carte Blanche lensman’s shock death.
Saunders confirmed that Dudley, well-known for his perfectionism and pride in his work, was finishing a shoot about train surfing in the township.
After filming an interview with a train surfer – each on either side of the track – Dudley stayed behind to get one final shot, an extreme close-up of a passing train, Saunders said.
“The train was coming from around a corner. We think he misjudged its speed, firstly, and when you are looking through a camera lens your depth perception is thrown off.”
These factors, combined with Dudley’s renowned fearlessness, saw him inch too close to the track. The train struck him from the front, Saunders said.
The assistant cameraman rushed over to help, Saunders said, and found Dudley gasping for breath. “But by the time they got him to hospital he had already passed away.”
Saunders fondly described his son as an “out-of-the-box, special kind of boy”. “He was so loving, but adventurous, that was Dudley from a young age. He had such love and respect for us though, as well as for his children (aged 19 and five),” said Saunders, adding that their well-being had become the family’s main concern.
Dudley, 45, and his partner Bernadette Maguire, a producer for Carte Blanche, were due to move into their new home in Muldersdrift together this week.
“Now Bernadette has to sit in that house alone. She is totally shattered,” said Saunders.
Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile added his voice to the hundreds of messages of support. “Dudley had an extraordinary talent behind the lens. Hence, he was world-renowned,” Mashatile said.
The funeral will be held on Tuesday at 11am at the Afrikaans Presbyterian Church, corner of Malibongwe Drive and Elise Road, Randburg.