Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

‘I thought I was going to die’: Runner attacked by pit bulls describes horrifying ordeal

'They were relentless, he was literally fighting for his life,' says the man who possibly saved René Memmel's life.

An East Rand man has described in terrifying detail how two pit bull terriers attacked him while out on a morning run in Edenvale on Friday.

René Memmel – a seasoned runner who has just started his training block for the Soweto Marathon, which will be run in early November – was attacked at 4.50 am on 12th Avenue, Edenvale, on Friday.

“I thought I was going to die,” said 38-year-old Memmel, who lives in Kensington but was out running in Edenvale.

The incident happened just 800m from where he was staying, at his partner’s house.

“I was running up 12th Avenue and saw the two dogs. I knew there was [expletive]. Two pit bulls roaming the streets will make anyone nervous.

“I sort of stopped and waited to see what they were going to do. They slowly came toward me and for a moment I thought they would just sniff me and be on their way.

“But then out of the blue, they attacked, both at the same time.”

ALSO READ: Kwa-Zulu Natal woman mauled by her pet pit bulls

Memmel said the dogs ripped at his skin.

“The one grabbed me in the groin area and the other jumped up and grabbed my right wrist. I was trying to shake off the dog on my wrist by hitting at it and eventually it let go.

pitbull attack
Photo supplied

“The one on my groin area had lock-jaw and wouldn’t let go. I started screaming. I knew that if they got me to the ground they’d kill me.”

Memmel says he kept on screaming and eventually a man, Jarod Wentworth who lives in 12th Avenue, came out which, he says, startled the dogs.

“I had a gap to move and ran to the guy’s house. He took me to my girlfriend’s house 800m away.”

Wentworth says he was eating breakfast when he heard Memmel’s screams.

“I went outside to have a look at what was going on and that’s when I saw Rene. He was screaming and fighting the two dogs.

“I went back into my house and grabbed the knife I was eating with and headed outside. I started shouting at the dogs and all of a sudden the one ran towards me and jumped at me. I swung the knife at it and kind of pushed it away.

“The other dog then let go of René and came at me. Again I pushed at it and within seconds the two dogs walked off and stood looking at us. Rene was bleeding badly, and dazed and confused.”

Wentworth says he’s seen the dogs before in the street.

They’ve always been aggressive.

“This was crazy. I saw what they were capable of. They were relentless, ripping into Rene; he was literally fighting for his life.”

Runner Rene Memmel
Runner Rene Memmel ran his first marathon in 2021. Picture: Michel Bega

ALSO READ: Northdale woman’s ear torn off after being attacked by pit bull

Memmel later established who the dogs belonged to.

“The lady did not come out at all while everything went down, but she was very apologetic later on.

“I understand she has already been to the police to ‘announce’ herself. I’ve also heard the two dogs have been put down.”

Memmel underwent a three-and-a-half-hour operation on Friday afternoon to repair his wounds.

“Hopefully there is no permanent damage,” he says. “The surgeon seems to be happy.

It was a terrifying experience.

“At one point I’d come to terms that I was going to be killed. I’m fit and strong, but I was barely able to stay on my feet. It was so tiring to fight them, even though the whole ordeal didn’t last long.

“I beg of people with dogs to please ensure they’re safely kept inside one’s property.”

The owner of the dogs was contacted by The Citizen but she was unable to speak at the time. This story will be updated if and when she speaks to us.

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