Anger at M1 bridge in­quiry de­lay

Daily News - - NEWS - TEBOGO MONAMA

A VIC­TIM of the Gaut­eng M1 bridge col­lapse, which claimed two lives and left 19 oth­ers in­jured, is an­gry that hear­ings into the events of that day have been post­poned to next year.

To­mor­row will be two years since the tem­po­rary pedes­trian bridge col­lapsed, how­ever, vic­tims are far from get­ting clo­sure or know­ing what caused the ac­ci­dent be­cause last month the in­quiry was post­poned to July. The process is due to con­tinue un­til Septem­ber.

Fol­low­ing the col­lapse, the De­part­ment of Labour set up a Sec­tion 23 in­quiry and, to date, five ex­pert wit­nesses have ap­peared be­fore the in­quiry. They in­clude an ex­pert wit­ness from Form-Scaff, Garry Far­row, and civil engi­neer Richard Beneke, Ric Snow­den and Dr Ste­fanus Fran­cois van Zyl, all rep­re­sent­ing the con­struc­tion com­pany Mur­ray & Roberts.

One vic­tim, Irvin Katan­gane, 23, said the post­pone­ment made him feel like those tasked with find­ing out what hap­pened did not care.

“Ev­ery­one who was af­fected by the ac­ci­dent didn’t wake up and ask the bridge to fall on them. If they keep on post­pon­ing, what do they want us to think? What kind of peo­ple are they?”

Be­fore the day that changed his life, Katan­gane had ob­tained a bur­sary to study for a business de­gree. How­ever, he opted to do a business man­age­ment course so that he could get a job quickly and help his mother fi­nan­cially, and also build a bet­ter life for his fam­ily. He ob­tained an in­tern- ship and was one month into it at the time of the col­lapse.

Katan­gane and his col­leagues were trav­el­ling in a taxi from Sun­ninghill to the Joburg CBD and he re­mem­bers the fate­ful day as if it were yes­ter­day. “The taxi in front of us was short of one or two peo­ple, so we de­cided to take the next one, so that we could travel as a team.”

He sat in the front seat with his col­league, Bryce Car­lin­sky.

“As we were ap­proach­ing the bridge, it started shak­ing. I started scream­ing at the driver that he should stop, but he could not. Bryce was also scream­ing at me to tell the driver to stop. He just couldn’t.

“I started pray­ing and closed my eyes. When I opened them, (I saw) the driver was hit by a pole on his chest and Bryce was bleed­ing from the face.”

The driver died and the two pas­sen­gers were trapped in the taxi for more than an hour. Katan­gane passed out when the roof of the taxi was re­moved and peo­ple started tak­ing pic­tures.

He woke up in hospi­tal, to find a catheter at­tached to him, and that he was un­able to walk.

“When I woke up and saw the catheter and my fa­ther cry­ing, I thought this meant it was bad and that I would never walk again,” Katan­gane says.

He was dis­charged from hospi­tal af­ter two weeks and used a wheelchair to get about, while go­ing for ther­apy to learn how to walk again. The wheelchair was pro­vided by Mur­ray and Roberts, who were con­struct­ing the bridge.

Four months af­ter the col­lapse, Katan­gane de­cided to go back to work but it was not easy.

“When I went back to work, I did not re­mem­ber any­thing. Even pass­ing by the bridge was trau­matic. I would play Candy Crush from MTN (Noord) Taxi Rank un­til Sun­ninghill. I was not okay.”

He de­cided to re­sign and con­cen­trate on get­ting bet­ter.

Katan­gane says his phys­i­cal health is bet­ter and he can now con­cen­trate on re­build­ing his life. “I had been look­ing for a job, with no luck. I then started a bak­ing business with some of my friends. We started bak­ing vetkoek and muffins.”

How­ever, the part­ner­ship did not work and he now runs the bak­ing business on his own.

“Bak­ing is my pas­sion. I just worked at my pre­vi­ous job be­cause my mother needed help with a sec­ond in­come. I knew it would not be a long-term thing,” he said.

Last week, Gaut­eng Pre­mier David Makhura vis­ited Katan­gane and Car­lin­sky. His spokesper­son, Phumla Sekho­nyane, said the Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial govern­ment would as­sist the fam­i­lies by pro­vid­ing coun­selling and ac­cess to med­i­cal care at pub­lic health and so­cial de­vel­op­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

The ar­bi­tra­tion process that has just be­gun into the deaths of more than 100 Life Esidi­meni pa­tients breaks Katan­gane’s heart.

“I find it sad that things that hap­pened af­ter our ac­ci­dent are be­ing at­tended to. This shows that jus­tice is not served for all of us. I am alive but there are peo­ple who lost their bread­win­ners. How are they sup­posed to sur­vive?” he asked.

The con­struc­tion of the M1 Grayston pedes­trian bridge was ex­pected to be com­pleted by the end of this month.

PIC­TURES: MATTHEWS BALOYI AND NH­LANHLA PHILLIPS / ANA

Bryce Car­lin­sky, 22, was se­ri­ously in­jured when the scaf­fold­ing of the M1 bridge col­lapsed. He was placed in an in­duced coma for a few days.

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