Individuals, businesses open wallets for Hoërskool Driehoek victims and families

2019-02-04 10:51
The collapsed bridge at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press

The collapsed bridge at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press

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A crowdfunding initiative has been started to assist the Hoërskool Driehoek victims and their families, and tombstones are also being donated.

On Friday, News24 reported that a concrete slab above a corridor linking two blocks of buildings had come crashing down on 26 learners at the Vanderbijlpark-based school.

The incident happened a few minutes after 08:00, when learners were heading to their classrooms from the morning assembly.

Roydon Olckers, Jandré Steyn and Marli Currie lost their lives in the tragedy.

On Sunday, a fourth pupil, Marnus Nagel, succumbed to his injuries.

In total, 23 others were taken to various hospitals in the area.

The crowdfunding was started by the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce and had by Monday morning collected just short of R10 000 of its R50 000 target.

"The Golden Chamber of Commerce, represented by Klippies Kritzinger, has taken the initiative to lead the fundraising project on behalf of the school to assist those learners and parents that will need funding. Please help us to bring some kind of relief to this, still shocked, school with all involved," the chamber has said.

"We are thankful for every donation, no matter how big or small."

Tombstones donated

In addition, Brakpan-based Omega Tombstones has offered to donate a tombstone or memorial plaque to each deceased's family, to the collective value of R50 000, Netwerk24 reported.

School principal Hein Knoetze on Monday told Talk Radio 702 that the school would remain closed for the time being.

Knoetze reiterated his earlier comments, made to Rapport newspaper, that no-one could have foreseen the collapse and that he didn't think it could have been prevented.

The principal told Rapport that maintenance was done right through the year, 24 hours a day.

"The bridge was loose standing. We never submitted a request to repair it to the department, because we never saw it as a danger.

"I always said that I'm the 'father' of these children. I would never have allowed the pupils to walk through there if I had thought that their lives were in danger."

'Bridge was shaking'

One of the pupils reportedly said the bridge had been shaking as early as Wednesday and that pupils were fearful of it, but that they had never reported it to school authorities.

On Friday, News24 reported that the school grounds had been taken over by the Department of Labour and the police, as they conduct separate investigations into what caused the structure to collapse.

Structural engineers, who have been on the ground since Friday, have erected scaffolding below the triple-storey school block.

Plastered cracks below the first floor were clearly visible, which could have forced engineers to balance the buildings from collapsing further.

"The school remains cordoned off by police, as they are investigating what caused the tragedy. The school has been declared an emergency area. Structural engineers are on the scene. As the department, we want to know what caused the accident," Gauteng education department head Edward Mosuwe said.

Mosuwe thanked everyone who had played a role in assisting with the removal of pupils trapped under the rubble.

The department has offered trauma counselling services to all affected individuals.

"Until we have dealt with trauma counselling then we will deal with the recovery process. We have found an alternative place on the school grounds to manage teaching and learning," Mosuwe said.

'Overwhelming support'

"We have received overwhelming support since Friday. Regarding access to the school, the department of education will be guided by the department of labour," he added.

The department has promised to give the deceased learners a proper and dignified burial.

Mosuwe said the department had not received complaints about the school's infrastructure.

However, Vanderbijlpark police head Brigadier Nikiwe Hoyana promised that, should foul play be found, police would not hesitate to act against the culprits.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has offered his deepest sympathy to the friends and family of the victims.

"I offer my deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the deceased learners and I equally extend my condolences to the staff and entire school community of [Höerskool Driehoek],” said Ramaphosa in a statement released late on Friday night.

"This is a tragedy that touches all South Africans. We have lost young people who were engaged in the most important endeavour of their young lives – their education."

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Read more on:    hoërskool driehoek  |  johannesburg  |  vanderbijlpark  |  accidents  |  education

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