Young photographer paralysed after car veers off Chappies

A selfie taken by Lucy Thomas for some of the first responders who helped to save her life.

A young photographer is paralysed from the waist down after her car veered off Chapman’s Peak Drive earlier this month.

Lucy Thomas, 25, narrowly escaped death after her Volkswagen Polo tumbled down a steep slope, bursting into flames, and set the surrounding vegetation on fire, on Thursday February 17.

Her father, David Thomas, said first responders had been reacting to the fire when they had realised “there was a car down there”.

“She is very fortunate to be alive,” he said.

Realising his daughter’s road to recovery will be a long one, Mr Thomas started a BackaBuddy campaign to raise funds for her hospital treatment and recovery afterwards.

Mr Thomas, who lives in Parklands North, got a call on Thursday evening at 10.10pm from a paramedic telling him that his daughter had been in an accident and that she had been taken to Groote Schuur Hospital.

“The paramedic told me ‘everything was okay’, and it was only later that I had realised that ‘everything okay’ meant she was alive,” he said.

Just after midnight, a doctor told him that Lucy had “severe spinal injuries”.

On Monday February 21, Lucy had a seven-hour operation where the damage to her spinal cord was assessed and some vertebrae stabilised.

“Unfortunately, she has spinal-cord damage and is paralysed from the waist down,” he said. She is still recovering in ICU.

Mr Thomas said he had bought Lucy the Polo about a year and a half ago and all her photographic equipment had been in the boot of the car.

“It has all been destroyed with the car,” he said.

Lucy studied video photography at Orms Cape Town School of Photography and multimedia design at CityVarsity.

“It has been difficult to find work during Covid, but it was her passion, and it is still her future,” he said.

Mr Thomas said Lucy was doing well under the circumstances, and she “has moments of frustration but is positive most of the time”.

He said he did not have enough words to thank everyone involved in her rescue. “I believe it was a very difficult and dangerous rescue, especially with the fire around her car, and everyone involved was remarkable. It is a miracle she did not sustain any burns.”

Mr Thomas said he had “raised the bar high” for her BackaBuddy fund at R5 million as it was not just for her hospital fees but for her care and rehabilitation in the future.

He said he would do his best to raise awareness of the need for wheelchair accessibility in the city and prevent anyone from “going off Chapman’s Peak again, intentionally or unintentionally”.

City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse said they had been alerted to vegetation alight on the slopes of Chapman’s Peak Drive at 6.15pm. Arriving on the scene, firefighters from Hout Bay, Constantia, Wynberg, and Lakeside had found that a car had gone down the embankment and that the patient’s condition was serious.

“While some crew members were busy with active firefighting others assisted with the patient in the vehicle, and three helicopters water bombed the area,” he said.

Lucy was freed from her car at 8.55pm and rushed to hospital by Hout Bay Volunteer Emergency Services (EMS).

Mark Jacobs, a spokesman for Entilini Operations, which manages Chapman’s Peak Drive, said they would assess whether more retaining structures were needed at strategic points along Chapman’s Peak.

To make a donation visit or email Mr Thomas at

Lucy Thomas and her father David.
The fire, caused by Lucy Thomas’s car on the slopes of Chapman’s Peak.
Members of Wilderness Search and Rescue and the Mountain Club of SA Search and Rescue take a stretcher down the slopes of Chapman’s Peak.