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Road workers crushed to death

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The two men, Isaac Tshitlho, 37, and Rakeromilwe Dibe, 36, both from Petrusburg, died next to the N8 road after they were crushed to death by an allegedly faulty truck-mounted attenuator on Friday morning.

DEVASTATED: Family members console each other after being told that their relatives were apparently crushed to death after a safety barrier mounted on a truck collapsed and fell onto them while they were preparing to paint road markings about 40km outside of Kimberley on the N8 towards Bloemfontein. Picture: Soraya Crowie

TWO MEN were apparently crushed to death by a steel safety barrier while working on the road between Kimberley and Petrusburg this past weekend.

The two men, Isaac Tshitlho, 37, and Rakeromilwe Dibe, 36, both from Petrusburg, died next to the N8 road after they were crushed to death by an allegedly faulty truck-mounted attenuator on Friday morning.

The two men had started working for a road markings company on a project involving the painting of markings on the N8 road between Kimberley and Bloemfontein on Monday last week, only five days before the fatal accident.

According to information received from the two men’s colleagues, the team was busy preparing the work site by lowering a truck-mounted attenuator (TMA) from a vertical position to a horizontal position when a gust of wind caused the TMA to fall on top of Tshitlho and Dibe, who were standing underneath the heavy slab of steel.

A TMA is used as a protective barrier to protect motorists from impacting slow moving or stationary shadow vehicles and to provide safety for both the shadow vehicle operator and shielded workers.

It is alleged that the TMA’s hydraulic system became faulty on Thursday and workers used ropes and chains to hold the TMA in a vertical position at the back of the truck. On Friday morning, the workers were apparently busy manually lowering the TMA into a vertical position, using ropes and chains, when the TMA “slipped” and landed on top of Tshitlho and Dibe.

According to the deceased’s colleagues, due to the weight of the TMA, workers from other sites on the road had to be called to help lift it in order for the two men to be pulled from underneath.

Both men were apparently already dead. Both suffered massive internal bleeding, with Tshitlho also having his neck broken and Dibe’s “eyes popping out”, according to family members of the two men.

“Their bodies felt like jelly when we picked them up,” the family members said.

The family members said yesterday that the incident had left them with “many questions”, especially after the police confirmed a “different version” of the incident as to what they had been told had happened.

Free State Police spokesperson, Colonel Thandi Mbambo, said that a inquest had been opened following the incident.

“It is alleged that the deceased were busy loading roadworks boards onto a truck when a strong wind started to blow and the heavy boards were blown from the truck and hit the deceased. The deceased were declared dead at the scene,” Mbambo said.

Family members of the deceased said yesterday that they “would take the case further” and vowed to “get to the bottom of the incident”.

“We suspect that the company is trying to hide the truth about the incident from us and the police. They were quick to say that they would be paying for the funerals of both men … while the two were still lying dead in the road. We also saw the TMA involved in the incident on Saturday, a day after the deaths, and it was still in a horizontal position. It was confirmed to us that its hydraulics were faulty, posing a serious safety risk to workers. We believe supervisors were aware of this fault but allowed workers to operate the extremely heavy TMA manually, as ropes and chains were still seen attached to it on Saturday. We think that the company is lying to us and the police, as they are trying to cover up gross negligence on their behalf which led to the death of two men,” a family member of Tshitlho said.

He added that the family members found it “suspicious” that workers had pulled the two men from beneath the TMA after their deaths, as this should have been done by emergency personnel.

While on the scene on Friday, a man, Daniel Rakoti, who told the DFA that he was the health and safety officer on site, said that he would provide a formal response from the company about the incident by yesterday, but he had not done so by the time of going to print last night. He was also not reachable by phone.