Bridge exacts another toll

2013-12-16 00:00

DESPITE a vow that the Woodhouse Road low- level bridge would be closed, yet another car went off the flooded bridge this past weekend.

The yellow barriers that had been placed at the bridge to stop traffic from crossing have merely been moved aside and cars have once again been using the bridge.

Five people survived a potentially fatal incident when their car drove off the low-lying Sobantu bridge in the early hours of Sunday morning as they returned from a party at Ascot Inn.

They said they were terrified as the left hand wheels of their car tipped off the side of the bridge, causing the car to topple into the Dusi river upstream of the bridge.

Less than a month ago a young man died when his car was swept away and he tried to save the lives of his passengers.

The driver in Sunday’s incident, Nick Veldman, told The Witness that the boomgates that are meant to be closed when the bridge is flooded, were open.

He could not see how deep the water was on the bridge or make out where the edge of the bridge was and when the tyres went off the upstream edge, the entire car began to tip.

Lieutenant Jack Haskins, head of the K9 Search and Rescue Unit, was called out with his team at 5 am to start a rescue. He had no idea if there were any survivors at that stage as there was no one at the scene.

The car was underwater with only the roof showing. Members of the team dived into the river and began to search the waters.

Veldman, who appeared on the scene later, said the experience had left them shaken and shocked.

“We all had to bail out of the front window, as the doors were stuck. Our friend Kayleigh Paige got out and was swept away downstream.

“We heard her screaming in the dark, and luckily her boyfriend Chris Wantenaar swam and found her. One of the cellphones was working and we managed to phone some people at the party to come and fetch us.

“We reported the incident to the police at Townhill police station and then we went home and took some tranquillisers.”

Haskins said the bridge needed to get urgent attention.

“This time it was a happy ending. But in most cases we find bodies and that is not good news for anyone. It is a waste of life that can be avoided.”

Local councillor Thandi Matiwane has repeatedly called for the bridge to be re-built and for proper security measures to be put in place.

She said that residents were threatening to disrupt the Dusi Marathon to get the municipality to act.

The five people who swam to safety were Veldman, Paige, Wantenaar, Michael Diueman and Stacy Bone.

Police confirmed the incident yesterday. Municipal spokesman Brian Zuma was not available to give comment.

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