HOUSTON - The world rugby community is mourning the loss of player and coach Pedrie Wannenburg, including the Rice University Rugby Club in Houston.
Wannenburg had served as the head coach of the club for its 2021-22 season, and according to the club, "pushed [it] to unprecedented success." Wannenburg was the team's coach for their first season following the shutdowns from COVID-19.
"Although only through one season, we are endlessly grateful for the time he dedicated to our team. Pedrie was not just a coach and player, he was a father, a husband, and a true friend to all those he encountered. He provided selfless guidance and mentorship to those under his care and he will be dearly remembered and missed," the club said in a statement on social media.
The club has set up a GoFundMe in honor of Wannenburg to help his wife Evette and their two children. The fund has raised almost $15,000 out of its $20,000 goal by Sunday evening.
"His impact as a player, coach, and supporter of the sport is felt across multiple countries and continents, and he will be greatly missed by all alike," said the club on the GoFundMe page. "We'll miss his halftime speeches, grueling fitness drills, and commanding spirit and will be forever thankful for his contributions to our program."
41-year-old Wannenburg died from his injuries after being airlifted to a hospital after a suspect fleeing sheriff's deputies struck his vehicle in West Harris County, says Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Wannenburg also had two children in the truck, an eight-year-old boy who was airlifted as well, and a ten-year-old girl, who had no reported injuries.
The boy had life-threatening injuries and as of Saturday morning, was in critical condition. Multiple people who knew Wannenburg, including former teammates and the Rice University Rugby Club, have said the boy was Wannenburg's son, Francois.
The 16-year-old driver who fled sheriff's deputies has been charged with felony murder, reckless aggravated assault-serious bodily injury, and three counts of aggravated assault-bodily injury. It is unknown at this time why the deputy initiated the traffic stop or why the driver fled from the deputy.
Born in 1981, Wannenburg played for teams in South Africa, Ireland, France, Denver, and Austin, according to an obituary posted by his former team, the South Africa Springboks. Wannenburg had retired from playing in 2018 but continued to coach in the U.S. He made his Springbok debut against France in Paris in 2002 at 21 and was "a stalwart" of the Vodacom Bulls team that won numerous Carling Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby titles in the 2000s, says the obituary.
"To lose someone at the cusp of the rest of his life with a young family, after a long and storied rugby career is extremely sad, and our thoughts are with his wife, Evette, their two children, Isabelle and Francois, as well as his parents and other family members, loved ones and friends during this very difficult time," said Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby.
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