Bridge collapse victim slams delay
A VICTIM of the M1 bridge collapse which claimed two lives and left 19 injured is angry that hearings aimed at getting to the bottom of what happened have been postponed to next year.
Tomorrow, it will be two years since the temporary pedestrian bridge collapsed. But victims are far from getting closure or knowing what caused the collapse because the inquiry was last month postponed to next year July. The process is expected to run until September.
Following the collapse, the Department of Labour set up the Section 23 inquiry and, to date, five expert witnesses have appeared before the inquiry.
They include mechanical engineer Gary Farrow, civil engineer Richard Beneke, Ric Snowden and Dr Stefanus Francois van Zyl, all representing Murray & Roberts.
One of the victims, Irvin Katangane, 23, said the postponement made him feel like those tasked with getting to be bottom of 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, how do they want us to think? What kind of people are they?”
Before the day that changed his life forever, Katangane had obtained a bursary to study for a business degree. However, he opted to do a business management course so he could get a job quickly and help his mother financially and also build a better life for his family. He obtained an internship and was a month into it at at the time of the collapse.
At the time, he and his colleagues were travelling from Sunninghill to the Joburg CBD. He remembers the fateful day as if it was yesterday. “The taxi in front of us was short of one or two people, so we decided to take the next one so we could travel as a team,” Katangane said.
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.
“When I realised he was unable to stop, I started praying and closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes, the driver was hit by a pole on his chest and Bryce was bleeding on the face.”
The driver died and the two passengers were trapped in the car for over an hour. Katangane passed out when the roof of the taxi was removed and people started taking pictures. He woke up in hospital with a catheter attached and 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 I would never walk again,” Katangane says.
He was discharged from hospital after two weeks and was in a wheelchair while going for physical therapy to learn how to walk again. The wheelchair was provided by Murray & Roberts which was were constructing the bridge.
Four months later, Katangane decided to return 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 have been looking for a job and no luck. I then started a baking business with some of my friends. We started baking vetkoeks and muffins.”
However, the partnership did not work and he now runs his baking business on his own.
Last week, Gauteng Premier David Makhura visited Katangane and Carlinsky.
His spokesperson, Phumla Sekhonyane. said the provincial government would assist the families with counselling and access to medical care in the public health and social development facilities.
Irvin Katangane was injured two years ago when a bridge collapsed at Grayston Drive.