WATCH | Day when a miracle happened
In 1988, East London businessman Chris White thought his life was over when he missed a curve on Chapman’s Peak and plummeted to the rocks below.
But he was driving a Mercedes-Benz and, although the car ended up in a pile of twisted metal on the jagged rocks 30 storeys below, White, then 40, emerged from the wreck virtually unscathed, a testament to the brand’s superior safety engineering.
The dramatic accident was the inspiration for an iconic Mercedes-Benz advert with the catch line ‘Engineered like no other car in the world’.
But the story does not end there. Last month, advertising agency Net#work BBDO, which produced the original advert, tracked down White, who landed up back on Chapman’s Peak, once again driving a Merc, once again facing the sheer drop that could have ended his life. Although he was once again behind the wheel, his hands were suspended above it because White was being filmed driving a fully autonomous S-Class Mercedes-Benz.
And then, the final chapter of this compelling story of sentiment and survival: Thanks to the generous help from the luxury motor company, the 69-year-old has just taken ownership of his sixth Merc since the accident, a GLC 220 diesel AMG trim.
“I haven’t driven any other car since the accident,” he said.
Speaking to the Daily Dispatch this week, White, a concrete technologist who has been running his company, Chris White Agencies in East London for 38 years, clearly remembers the night he flew off a 100m cliff 30 years ago.
“It was a Sunday night and I had just had dinner in Hout Bay and was driving to our family holiday cottage in Scarborough at about 12 or 1am, but I never made it.”
As he was taking one of the last turns on the twisty, narrow drive in his refurbished 1985 model 200 Mercedes-Benz, he shot off the edge and hurtled to the rocks below.
“I can remember it very clearly. They say your whole life flashes in front of you and it really did. I remember the rocks going past all my cassette tapes flying past me and out the sun roof which was open. It was very scary but took three or four seconds, so there was little time to think. And then bang, I was on the deck.”
The crash rendered him unconscious, but when he came to, he un-clicked his seatbelt and dragged himself out of his wrecked Merc.
“There was a guy walking towards me on the rocks and he couldn’t believe it, because there I was waving at him.”
The man was a ranger who had been driving behind White, witnessed the accident, called for help and made his way to the accident site.
White had broken two ribs and splintered his hip.
“I left hospital three days later and have only driven Mercedes-Benz since that day.”..