Bridge col­lapse vic­tim slams de­lay

Pretoria News - - NEWS - TEBOGO MONAMA

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.

PIC­TURE: NHLANHLA PHILLIPS/ANA

Irvin Katan­gane was in­jured two years ago when a bridge col­lapsed at Grayston Drive.

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