Transporter says bridge was too low

2014-08-02 00:00

AN “unforeseen, unusually” low bridge “without any warning” has been blamed for the freak accident that killed a giraffe on the N1 in Gauteng on Thursday.

Dirk Boshoff, marketing manager at Ditjabe Wildlife Services, was asked to explain the accident that horrified motorists and was carried by media worldwide.

Ditjabe was transporting two giraffes from an eco-estate in Alberton to Pretoria in an open trailer, when the bull, facing backwards, hit its head on the bridge.

Boshoff was driving behind the trailer, being towed by a bakkie.

“We were going at 48 km/h and passed safely under 31 bridges. There was no warning that the Garstfontein bridge was not safe,” he said.

In photos taken just before the accident, it is clear the trailer is in the freeway’s fast lane.

“The tragic incident will haunt me and my family for ever. I’m not here to hurt or kill animals, I just transport them,” Boshoff said.

He said his own research revealed several previous accidents at the bridge because of its abnormal lowness.

He said the giraffes were being transported in an accepted way. “An open trailer with two compartments was used. The giraffes’ eyes were covered, their ears were plugged and they were haltered.”

Ken Harrison, the engineer with the Gauteng Highway Improvement Project, of which the Garstfontein bridge is a part, said there is nothing wrong with the bridge.

It is not new, but has recently been widened. It is the standard height of between 5,1 m and 5,2 m. A load has to be a metre lower to pass safely underneath.

“That guy is guilty. His load was far too high,” said Harrison.

He said Boshoff was “just lucky” on the rest of his journey. The other bridges could not be more than 200 to 300 mm higher, he said. He speculated that the giraffes happened to be stooping slightly under the other bridges.

Dr Chris Kingsley, a game specialist at Kameelfontein near Pretoria who examined the surviving cow, said she is fine, and calm. He said giraffes don’t form close pair bonds and she won’t be affected by the bull’s death.

He confirmed the bull was killed by a head injury that caused brain damage, and speculated that the animal jumped up slightly just before the trailer went under the bridge.

The carcass will be donated to a carnivore centre near Pretoria.

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