LONDON — Australian businessman Peter Holmes à Court’s wedding to American photographer Alissa Everett has been struck by tragedy after a tourist tram his guests were travelling on collided with a freight train in Victoria Falls.
Holmes à Court’s best man Jason Gissing suffered a broken arm and leg in the horror accident and one of the 32-strong party later died from head injuries.
A National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) spokesman told Mailonline Holmes a Court was not on the train on July 1 as it travelled to the stunning Victoria Falls, on the border with Zambia.
He said the passenger who later died in a South African hospital was an American man.
The crash happened at 5pm when a goods train ploughed into a Victoria Falls Steam Train Company tram train that was carrying 30 tourists and five crew members at the Victoria Falls main station.
A tram is used to ferry tourists for sight-seeing past the rain forest from the Victoria Falls bridge.
“While the tram train was at the Victoria Falls main station, the train operator stopped intending to change the railway line and the tram train was hit from behind by a goods train which was coming from the same direction.” Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, at the time, said.
Millionaire Jason Gissing, who was to be Holmes a Court’s best man, was flown to South Africa after breaking his arm and a leg in the crash.
The travellers on the tram were reported as coming from the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia.
They were staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel at the time of the accident and sightseeing ahead of the wedding.
Of the 20 injured, 18 were treated at the local hospital and two men were flown to a hospital in Johannesburg where one of them died.
The wedding in Botswana was cancelled, according to African media reports.
Holmes à Court (45) knows Gissing from his Oxford University days, where he also met George Osbourne, Britain’s Finance minister.
His family has close ties with Zimbabwe – Holmes a Court’s father, the late entrepreneur Robert, grew up in the African country.
“Jason broke an arm and a leg. It’s very traumatic, but at least he is alive.
“He is being cared for by Professor Ken Boffard, who is one of the best trauma surgeons in the world.”
Gissing was airlifted to Johannesburg, in neighbouring South Africa, for treatment.
Two days after the crash, Peter Holmes à Court appeared to have tweeted that he was looking for a lawyer in Zimbabwe.
Alissa Everett is an award-winning American photographer who has covered conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Last year she photographed Peter Holmes à Court for a magazine article about his return to Zimbabwe to trace the history of his father, Robert, who died in 1990.
For their wedding gifts, she and Peter Holmes à Court asked that guests give monetary donations to a charity Everett founded for women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Prior to getting married in Zimbabwe, Holmes à Court intended to accompany Everett on a trip to the DRC, where in 2012 she was “violently ambushed”.
“I will be joining to carry her (heavy) camera bags, to write on her work, raise the profile of the projects and because I am not prepared to let my bride out of my sight,” he said in a post on their wedding gift registry site.
On June 30, Holmes à Court posted a message about the forthcoming wedding describing Everett as an “amazing woman”.
Holmes à Court’s first wife, Divonne, and their four children live in Switzerland.
Holmes à Court became executive chairman of South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2006 in a joint takeover with Gladiator star Russell Crowe.
After becoming chief executive officer, he quit the post in 2008. He and Crowe currently own a 37,5% share of the NRL club. His close friend Gissing (43) is the co-founder of UK-based online grocer Ocado.
He stepped down from the board earlier this year, cashing in $27 million worth of shares. Gissing is married to Norwegian former professional skier Katinka.
They live in an $8 million house in London’s Bayswater with their four children. The accident was the third involving NRZ in the space of a week.
— Daily Mail