Survivors and loved ones are still coming to terms with Sandton’s horror bridge collapse
Irvin Katangane struggles to speak as he relives the moments before the 80-ton steel bridge support over the M1 highway crushed the minibus taxi he was travelling in on Wednesday afternoon.
The 21-year-old told City Press from his bed in the high care unit at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital that it would take a lifetime for him to forget the incident. Among Katangane’s many injuries are a fractured pelvis and leg.
“I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I remember saying a short prayer asking God to receive my spirit – because I thought that was it,” he said.
Katangane and his best friend, Bryce Carlinsky (20), who both work as agents at the Telkom call centre in Sunninghill, were sitting in the front seats of the taxi when the pedestrian bridge that was erected to allow Alexandra residents to walk and cycle to Sandton collapsed. Katangane, Carlinsky and the driver, Siyabonga Myeni, saw the bridge swaying before it tumbled.
Katangane was able to speak about the horror on Thursday as Carlinsky lay in an induced coma in Charlotte Maxeke’s intensive care ward.
Myeni, one of the two people who died in Wednesday’s bridge crash, lay in a Johannesburg mortuary after a steel pole pierced his chest. Still heavily sedated, Katangane spoke of how Myeni tried to stop the taxi, but it was too late.
“It all happened so fast, from the moment we saw it swaying to that moment when it collapsed. It was as if somebody shattered it from the top and it separated into pieces. The next thing I remember is hearing agonising screams from other passengers. I looked at Bryce and he was bleeding heavily. I thought he was dead. I could see blood oozing from the driver’s chest and a huge pole going through his chest. I am not sure what happened after that.”
On Friday, Durban’s Daily News reported that Adrian Doodnath (27) was in the car with his wife, Chantel, parents Indrani and Ashley, and a cousin when the bridge crushed his car. A family friend told the newspaper that Doodnath, a businessman from Mount Edgecombe, and his family seldom came to Johannesburg.
Pictures on social media showed Doodnath’s visibly injured father sitting on the side of the highway and refusing to move until his son’s body was removed from the crushed car.
Myeni’s older brother, Ayanda, said the family was still in shock. “That picture of my brother lying lifeless in the back of the taxi will take a long time to be erased from my mind. I looked at him covered in blood and thought: Was there no other way to take his life, God?
“My brother was a stubborn person, but good to be around. He has four young children who will now have to grow up without a father,” said Ayanda.
Myeni will be buried on Saturday in his home town of Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
A few metres down the hospital corridor from Katangane, Carlinsky was still fighting for his life. He suffered serious trauma, including bleeding on the brain and a fractured pelvis.
His mother, Rose, said that although the situation did not look good, she was optimistic he would pull through.
Lawsuits loom for construction firm
Murray & Roberts could face lawsuits after Wednesday’s collapse of a support structure erected to enable the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the M1 highway. Two people died and at least 23 people were injured.
Affected family members told City Press they would pursue civil claims.
Construction-law expert Thobani Mnyandu of MNS Attorneys said if Murray & Roberts could be held liable, negligence would first have to be proven. The test for negligence, he said, centered on whether all reasonable steps were taken to prevent the accident.
Mnyandu said it would be difficult to quantify how much the families might be entitled to sue for.
Taxi driver Siyabonga Myeni’s brother Ayanda said: “My brother’s children, the eldest of whom is five, have been robbed of their father. He supported them and his fiancée. Now who will put food on their table? Murray and Roberts will have to compensate them and ensure the children are put through school, as he would have done.”
The family of critically injured Bryce Carlinsky agreed. His brother Given said doctors told them Bryce may never walk properly again. “Bryce is a talented soccer player who had a bright future.”
Murray and Roberts spokesperson Ed Jardim declined to speak about compensation on Friday.
“Our priority right now is to assist with trauma counselling, medical bills and funeral costs. We will later discuss with families how best we can assist them.”
University of Johannesburg civil engineering lecturer Deon Kruger said it could have been anything that caused the collapse – from a loose bolt or faulty lock connecting frames, to design or construction faults.
A number of possible causes of the disaster were reported, including that a concrete mixer may have crashed into the structure.
Kruger said investigations were tedious and took time. Complicating matters was the speed at which the highway had to be cleared for traffic.
“Clearing the road means removing all the evidence, leaving investigators relying on pictures,” he said.
A number of investigations are currently under way.