SCREECHING tyres, bright lights and hooting were the only warning signs Bongane Mahlangu got that a grim and life-altering fate awaited him.

SCREECHING tyres, bright lights and hooting were the only warning signs Bongane Mahlangu got that a grim and life-altering fate awaited him.

The 13-year-old boy from KwaThema in Springs, Ekurhuleni, was one of three schoolchildren who were knocked down by a suspected drunk driver while playing on the pavement on December 7 last year.

His grandfather, Lucas Mahlangu, says Bongane can no longer do the things he was able to do before the accident.

"He is not the same boy he was then. We have to help him with small things like taking a bath or going to the toilet. Even a plate of food is difficult for him to hold because he uses both hands to grab his crutches," Mahlangu said.

Bongane remembers very little of the events that took place after the accident.

"We were playing on the pavement and it was dark. I couldn't see much until a bright light came from behind. Next thing I heard screeching and hooting."

The teenager says his next memory was of him lying on the pavement, face down.

"My body was warm and I felt a sharp pain on a spot above my left knee," he said.

Neighbour Esther Masuku said what she saw at the scene was "something I hope I will never see again in my life".

A particularly harrowing sight, said Masuku, was the separated part of a limb. A shoe was still wrapped around the detached limb. There was blood everywhere.

The limb belonged to Bongane.

Masuku said: "I heard a loud bang and ran outside. I saw that a Ford Bantam had rammed through the front wall into my car."

Masuku lives four houses from Bongane's home on Marule Street in the sprawling township.

"One of the children was lying still. I thought he was dead. The other two were crying deliriously," she said, referring to Mzwandile Masuku, 11, and Mpilwenhle Mahlangu, 9.

The two had suffered head and neck injuries, but both are back in school.

Masuku said the driver "was so drunk he could hardly stand".

The alleged drunk driver, Nathaniel Ntsikelelo, denied the accusation. He said he had visited Mahlangu's family to apologise.

"I told them I take full responsibility for my actions," he said. "I was not drunk. The whole accident was a mistake."

Ntsikelelo might yet walk free because of the delay in the release of blood tests done to determine whether he was drunk or not.

Warrant Officer Makhosonke Mthembu confirmed that the results were not out yet, nearly six months after the accident.

"To my knowledge it takes three months for the tests to be completed," he said. "But we might have to wait a full year before we get them."

This is because of delays at government laboratories.

Mthembu said a doctor's report was also missing from the case docket, adding: "That is a question I cannot answer."

Ntsikelelo will face a charge of attempted murder when he appears in court on Monday.