City two killed after plunge

2016-01-19 13:03

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Pietermaritzburg - Two Msunduzi electricity workers plunged to their deaths on Sunday evening while repairing street lights in Pelham.

The two were working on a streetlight when the hydraulic lift they were standing on collapsed.

They were repairing the light after an accident on Saturday night resulted in an electricity outage in the New Scotland Road and Burton Avenue area.

The men — Mdunyiswa Vivian Shozi (45) and Thembinkosi Gerald Sithole (62) — both seasoned line erectors for the municipality, were killed.

Shozi joined the municipality in April 1994 as a general worker and had 21 years of service. Sithole, who had 38 years of service, joined the team in February 1977.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said both men sustained life-threatening injuries.

Acting municipal spokesperson ­Nqobile Madonda said a “mechanical ­failure” on the truck caused the crane to break, and that “a full and thorough ­investigation is currently under way”.

A source at the municipality told The Witness that the findings of the investigation were imperative as the vehicle ­involved was from the new fleet at the ­municipality, and was expected to be in “good working condition”. The source said the hydraulic lift was clearly marked, indicating that the maximum weight it could carry was 120 kg.

A resident of Burton Avenue, who asked not to be named, said she and her son were watching the men fix the street lights. “We were sitting outside because we could hear a lot of shouting going on. The two men were in the red cherry picker elevated as high as the street lights. There was a man on the ground shouting ­instructions at them,” she said.

The woman said the workers had been attending to the electricity outage since 1 pm after a car crashed into the lamp post and wiped out the power in the ­neighbourhood.

“We were very happy to see them at work on a Sunday, because most of our houses had been without power since the accident. We never expected such a freak, tragic thing to happen,” she said.

She the men were not strapped to ­anything and were not wearing hard hats. When the incident happened, she screamed and ran toward them.

“The one man fell directly on his head. The neighbours were all out after that and a nurse from up the road had rushed over with her gloves on and tried to assist.

“It was absolutely horrific. I have not stopped thinking about them since. ­Maybe if they were strapped to harnesses or had hard hats on, this incident would not have been fatal,” she added.

Madonda said the municipality’s ­investigation would include why the men were not harnessed or wearing hard hats.

Sithole’s son, Nhlanhla, said yesterday the family were not ready to speak to the media regarding his father’s death. He said the family were busy with funeral arrangements. A relative of Shozi said the family needed privacy during this time and declined to comment on the incident.

The incident follows closely on the murder last Thursday of Superintendent Pumla Dlamini by a traffic department ­official at the Washington Road offices. The official is still on the run following the shooting.

A source said workers and managers were “tense” following the three sudden deaths within four days at the ­municipality. “You can smell the tension, death and fear in the employees and ­offices,” said the source.

Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela ­conveyed his sympathies to the bereaved families.

“We hope their families get solace from the Almighty. The same message goes to Msunduzi’s employees and their ­colleagues who have been confronted by the recent tragic incidents,” he said.

Madonda added that municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi was “deeply saddened and shocked” by the recent incidents.

“The mood is quite sombre. It is of shock, sadness and disbelief throughout the organisation,” she added.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  accident  |  death

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