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South Africa Bridge Collapse Inquiry Delayed

Friday, October 6, 2017

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The inquiry into the cause of the collapse of a temporary pedestrian bridge in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been postponed until July 2018, following the presentation of a new report by an expert witness and a number of other delays.

Spanning the M1 freeway, the temporary pedestrian bridge, which included scaffolding, collapsed Oct. 14, 2015, according to Moneyweb. The bridge fell onto passing traffic below, killing two people and injuring 19 others. Wind was partially blamed for the collapse.

The parties currently involved with the inquiry are Murray & Roberts, the general contractor and material supplier on the project; the Johannesburg Development Agency; the JDA’s agent, Royal HaskoningDHV, a project management and engineering firm; and Form-Scaff, the supplier that provided some of the Grayston bridge’s scaffolding.

Bridge Collapse

Initially, according to City Press, an expert witness from Murray & Roberts blamed the collapse of the bridge on Form-Scaff. Amog, an engineering firm that specializes in collapse analysis, investigated on behalf of the scaffolding supplier, reporting that the blame remained with Murray & Roberts because the company's staff allegedly did not tighten the stucture-supporting couplers correctly. The report also detailed that, if the the couplers had been properly tightened, it would not have collapsed.

An investigation conducted by Professor Roelf Mostert‚ who serves as the head of the University of Pretoria’s Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering Department, reported that, contrary to Amog's findings, local construction industry practices pertaining to tightening couplers like those used onsite did not include a regard for level of actual tightness. He went on to add that the general contractor had not been given proper instructions regarding the couplers.

Mostert later revealed that he had tested 20 couplers, and that it was not enough of a representation to conlcude the investigation.

Pedestrian Bridge Collapse Inquiry

“The enquiry is aimed at identifying the cause of the accident, recommending remedial measures to prevent something similar and also to recommend to the National Prosecuting Authority whether any person should be charged with a criminal offence relating to the accident,” Willem Le Roux, Director for ENSafrica, told Moneyweb.

According to Le Roux, this means that the inquiry should be finalized as soon as possible.

During the two-day inquiry session at the Department of Labor office, Garry Farrow, a mechanical engineer employed by Form-Scoff, provided a report that neither Murray & Roberts nor the commissioner had seen before.

“The commissioner decided along with all legal representatives of the stakeholders that in the interest of completing the hearing without undue delay, that further continuation with expert witnesses could make the hearing unmanageable,” the Department of Labor said in a statement in late September.

At the time of the presentation of Farrow’s report, it was agreed that it would not be accepted into evidence.

According to Independent Online, there is the possibility of another 20 witnesses being called when the inquiry resumes in July of 2018, the earliest point at which all legal teams will be available to resume the inquiry.

During the inquiry, the general contractor and the scaffolding company added that they would not be presenting further expert testimony.

Previous Inquiry Delays

According to Moneyweb, the most recent delay in the inquiry, which had occurred in March of this year, was the result of technical challenges. These issues are allegedly due to the Department of Labor’s inability to find competent service providers for meeting transcriptions, but department spokesperson Teboho Thejane emphasized to Moneyweb the difficulty of coordinating the calendars of the legal teams.was a significant contributing factor to the delay.

The next, allegedly final, phase of the inquiry is set to last from July 2 to September 2018.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Government; Program/Project Management; Safety

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