Wall kills PMB man

2013-01-22 00:00

THE outer layer of a four-metre high wall crumbled on top of a 72-year-old Northdale man who was walking past yesterday morning, killing him on the spot.

Mohammed Sayad was walking from his Dookran Road home to pay his electricity bill at a pay point in Bombay Road at the time, said his brother, Essop.

The father of two was walking along the pathway next to the Pietermaritzburg Sanathan Ved Dharam Sabha hall, at the corner of Bombay and Lotus roads, when the outer layer of the wall, comprising thousands of 230-millimetre thick bricks, suddenly collapsed.

A local nurse, Sister Minawathie Gungapersad, who lives nearby, said neighbours alerted her to the incident. The Northdale Hospital nurse said she did her best, but Sayad was unresponsive.

“I heard screams at my gate and when I got out neighbours told me about the accident,” she said.

“I rushed to the scene, which is just a few metres from my house. I found the injured man and tried to resuscitate him. Unfortunately there was no pulse; I couldn’t even feel his carotid pulses.

“His pupils were fixed and dilated. Then I knew he was gone.

“It’s so sad to lose a life like this. The bricks had buried him and they had to be removed to get to him,” said Gungapersad.

When Sayad’s family got to the scene, his body was covered with a foil blanket, waiting for the mortuary vehicle.

Essop said he last spoke to his brother on Sunday afternoon and Mohammed would have visited him at his home today.

“We admired him a lot. He was a strong and healthy person who never complained about anything.

“He loved his wife, children and grandchildren … I can’t express how I feel about this, I’m going to miss him. We had arranged for him to come and visit me tomorrow … not this,” he said.

Sayad’s daughter, Razia Mohammed, was inconsolable. She said it was unbearable to wake up with a healthy father and to hear that he had died the next moment.

“The most painful part was when I saw him lying there in the heat, covered in foil,” said Razia. “He won’t see my child growing up and going to school. This is not fair.”

Structural engineer Geoff Bouttell, who was called by the sabha (society) to probe the accident, made a brief inspection of the wall yesterday. He said several factors could have led to the collapse. Brick piers of the 40-year-old structure, filled in with reinforced concrete, had been placed vertically at four-metre intervals to provide lateral stability for the free-standing wall.

“It appears wall ties normally used to tie the two brick skins forming the wall together were omitted during construction,” he said.

“This left the outer skin of brickwork completely unbraced, allowing the wall to collapse outwards.”

He said the sudden collapse could have been the result of forces caused by wind pulling the outer skin of brickwork outwards.

It could also be the result of a build-up of compressive forces in the wall due to temperature- and moisture-related expansion of the brickwork and a lack of movement joints in the wall.

The owner of the building is the PMB Sanathan Ved Dharam Sabha. Its members were shocked at the incident.

Sabha chairperson Avinash Samlall said: “Our executive committee is very sorry at the loss of a life as a result of this and we extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to his family.

“Our structural engineers will be investigating and assessing the remaining outer wall. Necessary corrective action to be taken will be informed by the full report of the investigation.”

Police have opened an inquest docket.

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