Three men die as trench collapses

The bodies of three men were retrieved after a trench collapsed on Monday. Picture: Christopher Schofield

Three construction workers died in Table View on Monday night when a trench collapsed, burying the victims in the sand.

The men were working on the R140 million project to convert Sandown Road and Malibongwe Drive into a dual carriageway to ease traffic congestion (“Upgrade to ease traffic”, Tabletalk, May 29).

Four people were initially trapped but one managed to get out before rescue services got on the scene.

The City of Cape Town’s rescue services and various volunteers from the Table View area worked through Monday night to try to rescue the men.

According to the City’s fire and rescue services spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, they responded to calls just after 5pm on Monday afternoon. When they arrived, it was found that three people were trapped in a trench as a result of the walls caving in.

“Fire services, Metro and other agencies worked tirelessly throughout the night to recover the bodies. The bodies of three adult men were eventually recovered and the scene was handed over to SAPS,” he said.

Roads between Sandown, Sunningdale and Basil Stone were closed and reopened on Tuesday morning.

Table View Neighbourhood Watch (TVNW) was also on the scene helping out throughout the night.

TVNW chairman, Grant Lemos, said the incident was tragic. “They were part of the crew digging for the new dual cableway when this happened. As far as I could tell, the trench they were digging was about eight metres deep.

“My deepest condolences to the families and co-workers of the victims. I’m no engineer but I think that more precautions should be taken into consideration during operations like this,” he said.

Also on the scene were Table View and Parklands neighbourhood watch members, the TVNW trauma team, Community Medics, the City of Cape Town waste services, SAPS and the Forensic Pathology Services.

Ward 107 councillor, Nicky Rheeder thanked all who helped in trying to rescue the victims. “Your support, assistance and hard work at the structural collapse in Sandown Road was beyond incredible. Thanks to everyone who donated drinks and sweets to keep the strength up of the fire and rescue teams. Our sincere condolences to the families of the victims,” she said.

Provincial SAPS spokesperson, Captain FC van Wyk said that according to reports they received, the three employees aged 22, 40 and 53 were killed while busy laying pipes in the trench when it collapsed on top of them.

“They were declared dead at the scene by a medical person. The bodies of the three men were retrieved and were taken to Salt River Mortuary. An inquest case was registered at Table View SAPS for investigation,” he said.

The three men were employed by Exeo Khokela Civil Engineering Construction, the company contracted to do the dualling of a portion of Sandown Road.

In a statement sent out on Tuesday July 9, Wilhelm Meyer of Exeo said a side wall of a trench collapsed unexpectedly during the installation of a sewer line.

“At this stage the families are being contacted for assistance and the names of the deceased will not be made public. Our deepest condolences go out to their families and loved ones. Counselling of the families and colleagues of the deceased, as well as those staff members involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, is being done,” he said.

Mr Meyer said that a full, independent investigation into the incident is underway and a comprehensive report will be submitted to the Department of Labour within the next two weeks.

The site is now closed and no work is taking place.

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