A World Cup rugby player died when he became trapped in a blazing Ford Focus after it ploughed into a tree, an inquest heard.
Sanele Sibanda, 29, from Zimbabwe, crashed his car on Sutton Road in Hull, East Yorkshire, just prior to a roundabout, on the evening of May 1 last year.
The Zimbabwe national team forward represented his country in the 2015 World Cup. He died after his car caught fire.
An inquest heard that the second row, who had been playing for Hull RUFC, was a ‘legendary and prominent’ player in his home country.
Tributes were paid to Mr Sibanda, nicknamed ‘Smiley’, by Zimbabwe national team coach Brendon Dawson shortly after his death.
Sanele Sibanda (pictured above), 29, from Zimbabwe, crashed his car on Sutton Road in Hull, East Yorkshire, just prior to a roundabout, on the evening of May 1 last year
He described Mr Sibanda as ‘a gentle, ferocious rugby giant, ever-smiling, unassuming, humble, high work ethic, hardworking, extremely talented and disciplined player’.
He added: ‘Sanele was a true embodiment of the resurgence of the Sables. He will be sadly missed. Rest easy Gentle Giant Smiley.’
The inquest held at Hull Coroner’s Court heard that Mr Sibanda, who played for the Zimbabwe national rugby union team, known as the Sables, came from a large family and had twin brothers as well as a sister and a talent for sports.
Coroner, Professor Paul Marks said: ‘Sanele was from Zimbabwe and an international rugby player. He came to the United Kingdom to further his university education in Hull.
‘Due to his rugby playing ability and skill, he was legendary and prominent in his country’s history of sport.
‘He was a God-fearing man and never indulged in any taking of illicit drugs and very occasionally took alcohol.’
An inquest heard that the second row, who had been playing for Hull RUFC, was a ‘legendary and prominent’ player in his home country
After Mr Sibanda’s crash, a collision investigation was carried out by police.
It was found that the vehicle had defects as the tread depth of the front tyre was worn below the legal limit, but this did not cause the crash.
But there were no other factors to cause the crash and no other cars involved, so it was determined that it happened due to the ‘actions or inactions’ of the driver.
A conclusion of road traffic collision was given by the coroner.
Professor Marks said: ‘On the night of May 1, 2020, the Ford Focus which Sanele was driving was heading towards Beverley Road on Sutton Road, at which point the vehicle left the carriageway and collided with a nearby tree.
‘Following the impact, the vehicle caught fire with Sanele trapped inside the vehicle, and as a result he sustained the injuries that proved fatal.’
Sutton Road, just prior to a roundabout in East Yorkshire, pictured above. After Mr Sibanda’s crash, a collision investigation was carried out by police
Mr Sibanda was part of the Sables squad that played in the 2015 World Cup qualifiers and also represented the country in the SARU Gold Cup and Africa Cup in 2010.
Fellow player Biselele Tshamala, who started playing with Sibanda during their high school days at Plumtree High, posted on the Zimbabwe Rugby Union’s social media pages to say he was ‘heartbroken’ by the sudden death of his friend.
‘My brother, schoolmate, playmate, teammate, my Sable. The sad news of your passing was heart wrenching and it tore right to my core,’ he wrote.
‘From the Plumtree fields to the international stadiums, we have trudged along together, you were always motivating us to take our game to the next level, ever smiling, ever jovial character.
‘Big hit after big hit you always kept the infectious smile on your face. Ever optimistic in adversity. You will be sadly missed in the dressing room. Rest easy Bhubesi.’