Plett man to relive horror of Lagos church collapse

Anthony Van Der Byl
Anthony Van Der Byl

WHILE a Lagos church disaster survivor from Plettenberg Bay was set on putting the horrific ordeal behind him after burying his wife four months ago, he might have to relive the nightmare, as he has been asked to testify at the inquest into the collapse.

However, he is also turning the tragedy into something positive.

Anthony van der Byl, 47, was one of dozens of churchgoers trapped under tons of rubble when the guesthouse attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos, headed by preacher T B Joshua, collapsed on September 12.

The disaster claimed the lives of 116 people, including his wife Louise, 50, who was standing next to him in the lunch hall when the building collapsed.

The inquest resumed in the Ikeja High Court on Friday after several delays.

After hearing the testimony of a structural engineer who claimed that there had been no signs of stress on the foundation of the collapsed building, the inquest was postponed to Thursday.

Van der Byl said he was one of four South Africans who would be traveling to Nigeria to testify. He said he would never forget the horrors of September 12.

He had just joined his wife in the guesthouse dining hall when he heard a loud noise.

“The wall in front of us just cracked and started to fold in towards us.

“[Then] the building collapsed on top of us. It was pitch black and there was dust everywhere,” Van der Byl said.

During the commotion he was separated from his wife. When the dust settled he heard his wife’s voice telling him to keep on praying. These were her final words.

Van der Byl and several other churchgoers were rescued 25 hours later. His wife’s body was returned to South Africa only in November, along with the remains of 74 other South Africans after a lengthy repatriation process.

Louise was buried a week later, bringing closure for her husband and their five children. But this was short-lived – he was told he would have to testify at the inquest.

Van der Byl said he had survived the tragedy for a reason, and believed it was to spread the gospel.

“I’ve decided to go into ministry. I am in Cape Town where I’m receiving spiritual training from SCOAN.”

-Yolande Stander

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