‘They were in excruciating pain’ — first aider tells of electricians’ fall

2016-01-20 12:38
Electricity pylon. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Electricity pylon. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Pietermaritzburg - “Overwhelmed and shocked” at the deaths of two municipal workers who plunged from a hydraulic lift on Sunday, the first-aider who was first on scene yesterday spoke to The Witness about the workers’ final moments.

Gail Grantham, a qualified first-aider for Eskom, said she had been faced with many incidents similar to this during her training at Eskom, however, this was the first time she had a “real-life” experience.

Grantham, who was visiting her sister in Burton Avenue, said she and her mother were watching the municipal workers as they were lifted high on the crane while attending to the street lights.

“I was actually looking at them and told my mother that they looked so unsafe with no harnesses and hard hats. In my training and working with Eskom, they [the workers] should have been secure,” said Grantham.

She said she had gone into the house when the incident happened and heard a “huge bang”.

“It sounded like something heavy had dropped. I somehow knew it was them and grabbed my first aid bag and ran outside,” said Grantham.

She said she saw the two men on the ground — one bleeding profusely from the head and the other who had landed close to the pavement.

She said she immediately instructed the other municipal workers to keep Thembinkosi Gerald Sithole’s head upright while she attended to Mdunyiswa Vivian Shozi, who landed on the pavement.

“I tried to put a collar on to the second man [Shozi] and used my first-aid bag to hold his head up. The other municipal workers helped hold Mr Sithole’s head upright as that is what we call the recovery position. Mr Sithole was in a terrible state and there wasn’t much I could do for him, but I tried.”

Grantham said she spoke to Shozi, who told her he wasn’t allergic to anything.

“They were in excruciating pain. I could see it on their faces. They kept moaning and I knew they were desperate for help,” she said.

Grantham, a first-aider for six years, said as soon as she began attending to the men, her instincts kicked in.

“You cannot be emotional. You have to remove yourself from the emotions and just do what you can to help. It was really traumatic but you just do what you have to,” she said.

She said she had taken care of the men for about 15 minutes until the paramedics arrived.

“The paramedics thanked me and were grateful for my assistance. My family who were standing nearby watching me work looked at me, shocked. They probably didn’t expect me to keep my cool throughout the traumatising scene.”

But when the adrenaline wore off, Grantham said she felt the emotions of the experience.

“I even called St Anne’s Hospital to find out how the men were doing. Obviously no one could tell me anything but I was absolutely overwhelmed and shocked when I read The Witness and saw they had died. I did everything I could for them,” said Grantham.

Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela began the first executive committee meeting of the year yesterday with a moment of silence for those who were killed while on duty in the past week.

Last week a municipal traffic officer, Superintendent Pumla Dlamini, was shot and killed by another traffic officer in his Washington Road office.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  death

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