Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy: Education dept appoints structural engineers to analyse building

2019-02-05 22:02
(Canny Maphanga, News24)

(Canny Maphanga, News24)

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The Gauteng education department has appointed a team of structural engineers to conduct an analysis of Hoërskool Driehoek's premises in Vanderbijlpark before the school reopens.

The school was closed with immediate effect on Friday after a concrete slab fell on 26 pupils, killing four of them and injuring several.

"The department of labour has directed us to appoint our own engineers who will be focusing on the assessment on structural integrity and declare safety in other areas where they could be utilised and which part of the building needs to be rehabilitated," department spokesperson Steve Mabona said.

He said the team started its work on Tuesday afternoon with the school remaining closed. 

A report will be made public as soon as the engineers complete the assessment, Mabona promised.

"The MEC (Panyaza Lesufi) wants thorough investigations into what caused the structure to collapse. We wish those in hospital a speedy recovery and we have received reports that some learners could be discharged from hospital soon," he said.

It was an emotional scene outside the school when a group of employees from a nearby food chain laid wreaths outside the school premises.

Tearful employees waited for a few minutes as they glared at messages of support hanging on the school fence. They refused to be identified and said the incident still haunted them.

READ: Hoërskool Driehoek pupils open up to counsellors, matric teaching to resume

"I was there soon after the structure had collapsed. I was at work when [we] heard loud screams coming from the school. People arrived at our shop asking us to rush to the school to assist learners who were trapped.

"I didn't even have time to remove my uniform. I quickly ran to the school, followed by my colleagues. When I arrived there, I saw something that I have never seen in my life. Those children were screaming for help. One was even hitting his hands on the ground pleading with us to remove the concrete rubble above his body.

"As we were trying to remove the rubble, other learners trapped on the other side were complaining that we are hurting them even more. I saw two of them dying under our watch. It was a horrible scene that I can't forget. We managed to assist those we could. Unfortunately, we could not save all of them," the crying employee said.

She added that she battled to sleep. Whenever she closes her eyes, the tragic image replays in her mind.

Later, after the group of workers from the food chain left, a group of security officers arrived in a convoy.

Clad in their work regalia, the guards placed wreaths, held hands and prayed outside the school before returning to their posts.

READ: Most victims of Höerskool Driehoek tragedy remain in hospital, some still critical

A female employee at the school said she moved to her children's bedroom because she was afraid to sleep alone.

"I can't sleep at all. I only feel safe when I share a bed with my children. I try by all means to distract myself from thinking about the incident and I can't. On that day, I had just moved a few steps away from the structure when it collapsed.

"My learners' screams are still in my head, despite having received trauma counselling at the school on Monday. I will carry this incident in my mind until I die," she said.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  education  |  accidents
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