BEACHFRONT traffic came to a standstill yesterday morning as rescue workers battled for more than an hour to rescue two construction workers trapped under a collapsed wall on Port Elizabeth’s Marine Drive.
They were only able to save one of the men – Simphiwe Masoko – who was given oxygen through a gap between the collapsed wall and the ground.
His colleague, Xolani Lombo, was crushed to death. A crane was later used to lift the wall and remove the body.
Curious onlookers gathered to watch as rescuers tried to dig Masoko out from under the retaining wall, which firemen managed to lift slightly using inflatable airbags.
Rescue workers said Masoko’s legs were trapped underneath the wall, making it difficult for them to pull him out. “It was very tricky and we had to act with extreme care to prevent any further injury,” an officer said.
Masoko was taken to Greenacres Hospital where spokeswoman Adele Kennedy confirmed he had undergone tests to assess his injuries.
She was unable to comment further without his permission.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said a passer-by alerted the authorities to the collapsed wall.
“From what we know, the two men were part of a larger group who were digging a trench alongside the wall when it fell over.
“We are still investigating what happened and have opened an inquest case,” she said.
Both Masoko and Lombo are from Kwazakhele and were contracted by a Pretoria-based company to lay fibre-optic cables as part of a contract with cellphone provider MTN.
Site foreman Danie Hamman said he was unable to comment until an internal investigation had been completed.