Vanderbijlpark bridge ‘felt unstable’ days before tragedy struck

Rescue workers at the scene at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijl Park after three pupils died when a walkway collapsed. Picture supplied.

Rescue workers at the scene at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijl Park after three pupils died when a walkway collapsed. Picture supplied.

Learners at the school said they felt the bridge shake as they walked on it two days before it collapsed, killing four and injuring dozens.

Learners at Hoërskool Driehoek spoke to Rapport about the walkway bridge feeling unstable two days before it collapsed.

According to the learners, while walking to class on Wednesday, they felt the bridge shake as they walked on it. They recall it was so shaky that they got scared and ran away.

Another student affirmed the learners’ account, adding that when it began to shake, it felt as though a ball was hitting the bridge.

ALSO READ: Fourth learner confirmed dead in Vanderbijlpark bridge collapse

However, the principal of the school, Hein Knoetze, denied that the bridge’s infrastructure was inadequate, adding that a significant amount of the school’s funds are allocated to routine maintenance throughout the year. He was adamant that he walked the bridge several times a day, and never felt it shake.

He said that the children at the school feel like his children, and therefore his responsibility, and that he and teachers would never have allowed learners to go near the bridge if they felt it was unstable.

Knoetze said the school is 42 years old, and is in a good condition.

A fourth Hoërskool Driehoek learner died in ICU on Sunday morning. 16-year-old Marnus Nagel was being treated at a hospital in Alberton when he succumbed to extensive injuries.

Three other learners died on Friday on the scene of the bridge collapse, and have been identified as Rayden Olckers, 17, 13-year-old Marli Carli and 13-year-old Jandre Steyn.

The school has since been closed indefinitely by the Gauteng Department of Education. Education executive committee member (MEC) Panyaza Lesufi said: “There won’t be schooling until further notice.”

Parts of this article have been translated from Afrikaans by Nica Schreuder. The original article appeared in Rapport on Sunday February 3. 

(Compiled by Nica Schreuder)

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