The free flow of traffic was restored this morning on one of the busiest roads in Gauteng following the collapse of an unused overhead pedestrian bridge, but questions have once again been asked regarding the standard of infrastructure inspections. By BHEKI C SIMELANE.
Questions are being asked about what could have compromised the structural integrity of a bridge on the Gildenhuys-Gillooly’s interchanges on the N3. The bridge gave way in the early hours of Wednesday and left five people injured, including a seven-year-old.
A forensic investigation to determine the cause of the collapse is underway, Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi announced this morning after visiting the site.
The road was declared safe and reopened to traffic.
In a statement, the Minister appealed that the investigation should be allowed to take place and discouraged any uninformed speculation as to the cause of the bridge collapse.
The incident had resulted in a full closure yesterday of the N3 north and southbound between the M2 Gildenhuys and N3 Gillooly’s interchanges.
The minister said on average, 200 000 vehicles passed through the route daily.
Unverified reports of a light earth tremor in the area surfaced on Wednesday as engineers worked tirelessly to establish what could have led to the collapse.
This is the second such incident within a space of two years, and in its wake, the standard of infrastructure inspections has once again called into question.
Two people lost their lives when a bridge over the M1 on Grayston Drive crumbled above their vehicles about two years ago.
The five people who were injured during Wednesday’s accident were rushed to various hospitals for treatment. Spokesperson for the Ekurhuleni Disaster Emergency Management Services Spokesperson William Tladi said they could account for only four of the people injured during the bridge collapse as one of them, an occupant of a sedan that was also involved in the accident, refused to be taken to hospital and opted for their own private medical care.
The seven-year-old who was involved in the accident was taken to a Germiston Hospital for medical attention. Some patients were taken to Johannesburg’s Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, including a truck driver whose vehicle was also involved in the accident, along with a sedan.
Yesterday excavators spent the day breaking through the concrete to clear the debris on both sides of the freeway.
In a statement, the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) announced that the Department of Labour had taken over the site from Wednesday afternoon and had begun its own inspection.
Yesterday, motorists were advised to use the R24 East and the N12 as an alternative route while work on the site of the collapse continued.
Sanral’s General Manager of Communications Vusi Mona said yesterday: “We cannot speculate as per the cause of the bridge collapse, our engineers have been deployed on site to determine the cause.”
Sanral said the 39-year-old bridge had been closed off for use by the public for a number of years.
Engineers worked until after midnight to ensure that the freeway was operational.
A statement by Sanral said today: “We are relieved that we managed to clear the debris and open the road in less than the 48 yours we had anticipated.”
It further said: “We wish to thank the teams involved in the collaborative effort to clear the site. At the same time we have not forgotten those who were injured during the bridge collapse. We wish them a speedy recovery and are keeping them in our prayers.”
As the bridge is 39 years old, it is only natural that the bridge and others the same age and older regularly undergo inspections.
It could not be established how often engineering inspections were conducted on the bridge.
When asked whether or not the police were investigating the cause of the accident, police spokesperson Mavela Masondo said police would only be involved if a crime was found to have been committed. DM
Photo: A delegation of officials visit the scene of the bridge collapse this morning. Photo Arrive Alive