International R&B star Ashanti will on Monday night escort to the United States the body of her cousin, who died in a Randburg car smash caused by an unlicensed drunk 17-year-old.
Quinshae Snead, 20, died on Saturday night just hours before her famous cousin was to perform in front of thousands of fans at her first-ever South African concert.
Ashanti, who is in the country with her parents, her brother and sister, never took to the stage at the Divas Concert, which also featured international artists Lauryn Hill and Regina Belle.
‘It has been very traumatic’
On Sunday, as a fast-tracked postmortem was completed on the body of Snead, whom Ashanti regarded as a sister, the performer was too devastated to speak to the media.
Describing Ashanti’s family, the Douglases, as a close unit “who were devastated by their loss”, concert promoter Morris Roda said Ashanti cried for most of the day.
“It has been very traumatic. They are not coping at all. You experience the death of a loved one in a foreign country. It has been difficult,” Roda said.
Snead, who was about to start her studies at nursing school, and bodyguard Steven Arendse were in a BMW X5 on Hans Strijdom Drive in Randburg when their car was hit from behind by the 17-year-old, who had stolen his mother’s Toyota Corolla.
According to the Johannesburg metro police, the BMW was hit so hard at the back that it was forced over a grass island and into oncoming traffic. “In the process, Snead and (Arendse) were flung out of the car and a VW Jetta drove over her,” said metro police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar.
‘She was very close to her cousin’
He added that the unlicensed driver’s blood-alcohol level was tested and registered 0,23 – more than four times the legal limit of 0,05.
Minnaar said the youngster was arrested and was expected to appear in court on Tuesday. A case of culpable homicide was being investigated.
The driver of the Jetta and Arendse were in a serious condition at Olivedale Clinic.
To grant the family’s wish to fly Snead’s body back to the US, a fast-tracked postmortem examination was completed on Sunday morning.
“We received a request to speed up procedures based on grounds of compassion,” said Professor Hendrik Scholtz, the Gauteng health department’s chief specialist of forensic pathology services.
Ashanti is in South Africa with her parents Thomas and Tina, her sister Kenashaia and her brother Thomas, and it is understood that the family contacted the US embassy for assistance.
Promoter Roda, who has assisted the Douglas family, thanked the President’s Office for their help, but would not say whether President Thabo Mbeki had been directly involved in fast-tracking the release of Snead’s body.
According to Roda, Snead had been backstage with Ashanti and Ashanti’s relatives at the Coca-Cola Dome in Northgate, north of Johannesburg, for the concert on Saturday night.
Just after 9pm, Snead volunteered to return to the family’s hotel to pick up some forgotten items Ashanti wanted for the concert.
“There were just a few items, things like clothing and earrings that were part of her costume,” Roda said.
“It’s a 10- to 15-minute trip to the hotel. The family were waiting, but after a while they realised it was taking too long (for Snead to return),” Roda said.
It was after 10pm when the family received a call from police informing them that there had been an accident.
The Douglas family had to identify Snead’s body on Saturday night at the government mortuary in Roodepoort.
“She won’t be in a position to talk. It has been terrible,” Roda said about Ashanti, who has worked with the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule and is famous for hits such as Foolish, Always on Time and What’s Luv.
“She was very close to her cousin. She’s grieving… it’s very difficult for her. She’s still young. She’s only 25.”
Snead had grown up with the family, and according to Ashanti’s promoter, Michelle Huff, Ashanti’s mother Tina looked upon Snead like another daughter.
“She was always very helpful. She was always joking. She was going to start nursing school soon,” Huff said.
Roda said the Douglas family spent their Easter Sunday torn between grieving for Snead and trying to make arrangements with their family back home.
They were required to identify Snead’s body again after the postmortem and were expected to fly home with her body on Monday.