National 29.8.2016 03:36 pm

Grayston bridge collapse inquiry postponed to next year

The collapsed bridge. Photo: The Citizen

The collapsed bridge. Photo: The Citizen

A ‘short notice’ request for additional information from an expert witness representing Form-Scaff led to the adjournment of the inquiry.

The department of labour on Monday said the inquiry into the collapse of the temporary bridge structure on Johannesburg’s M1/Grayston Drive, which left two people dead and 19 others injured, had been postponed to next year.

“The next sitting of the Inquiry is now pencilled for 27-31 March 2017,” said Mokgadi Pela the department’s directors for marketing and advertising.

After the M1/Grayston Drive pedestrian and cyclist structural bridge collapsed on October 14 last year, the department set up the Section 32 Inquiry to uncover the causes of the collapse of the scaffolding work into the Grayston Drive Pedestrian and cyclist structural bridge.

Presiding officer Lennie Samuel on Monday dismissed the sitting of the commission of inquiry until next year following a “short notice” request for additional information from an expert witness representing Form-Scaff.

Samuel said Gary Farrow, a mechanical engineer from Australia, was in Melbourne and unable to come to South Africa because Murray & Roberts had requested additional information from Form-Scaff’s expert witness. The witness could not deliver the requested information in time for the sitting.

A week ago Murray & Roberts had sent a list of 72 questions to Farrow, and the Inquiry felt that it was too short a time for him to respond to the questions and be ready on time to appear before the Inquiry.

“I am sitting with a challenge now because we could not contact other witnesses on time to appear before the commission. We did not want to prejudice the Form-Scaff witness by subjecting him to intense interrogation without enough time to prepare,” Samuel said.

The Inquiry had been expected to sit for seven consecutive working days until September 6.

Samuel said the commission was now in a predicament after the seven lost days. “Next year we will be faced with added pressure because of time. I appeal to all affected parties to commit to time schedules when requested to submit statements and reports, so as to mitigate further delays.”

The inquiry started its work in February 2016 with an understanding that the inquiry was to last six months. However, following delays caused by late submission of statements/reports and the non-availability of legal representatives, it is now expected to be completed next year.

Pela said all parties affected by the tragedy agreed on extra days to allow the commission to recover the lost time.

The Commission has 21 days confirmed and still has an additional day still to be confirmed by all the affected stakeholders. It has lined up 26 witnesses, and five of those have been cross-examined.

Some of the interested stakeholders in the Inquiry include Murray & Roberts, the City of Johannesburg, the Johannesburg Roads Agency, Form-Scaff, workers and unions.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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