180714. Mayersdal Eco Estate. Nine people were crushed to death and eight suffered injuries following a collapse house in an estate in Mayersdal South of Johannesburg outside Alberton. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Mpiletso Motumi, Omphitlhetse Mooki and Angelique Serrao

It collapsed from the roof down, entombing workers who had been hard at work with renovations to the expansive mansion.

When the dust settled, seven people were dead and many others had to be rushed to hospital for treatment.

Emergency services workers who rushed to the Meyersdal Eco Estate following the collapse at about 10.30am retrieved the first body around midday.

As they dug for more bodies from underneath piles of concrete, military-style security guards stationed at the estate entrance remained vigilant, ensuring that the throng of journalists outside didn’t gain entry.

For a moment, journalists were allowed in, but, under the watchful eye of estate management and security personnel clad in camouflage clothing, they were kept several metres from the house, which was cordoned off from the rest of Korhaan Street.

Vehicles from ER24, the Ekurhuleni metro police, the SAPS, Emergency Management Services (EMS) and the police’s K9 unit were on scene.

Residents who live on the street near the house couldn’t get out or into their premises as cars had to park in their driveways.

Most residents were at work when the incident happened.

One woman said that when she heard a bang, she didn’t think anything of it, assuming it was construction taking place somewhere within the estate.

Another resident, Rynette Farrar, said she had been called out to her son’s school when the accident happened. Coincidentally, one of the workers was taken to Union hospital, where her son had been taken.

“He’s lying next to my son in ICU at Union Hospital,” Farrar said.

EMS spokesman William Ntladi said nine people were confirmed dead, but later changed this to seven. Two of the bodies were cut in half. One was counted twice as a result. The seventh body was recovered just after 4pm.

“We transported eight patients to hospital, two were critically injured and taken to Union Hospital. Five had stable injuries and one had minor injuries,” he said.

Ntladi said 11 other construction workers were rescued unharmed and were taken for counselling.

Six of the 24 people from one construction company were still missing, and Ntladi said they were declared dead.

“We are not sure where the owner of the house is and we are still trying to get hold of the second contractor.”

Emergency rescuers could not confirm how many people were on site and how many people were still missing.

“We can’t account for how many people are still underneath the rubble. We will be able to do a round-up only once the search is finished,” Ntladi added.

He said emergency services would continue to search for more people first before structural engineers could be allowed on site to conduct investigations.

The owner of the house, Gregory Paul Cumming, was not reachable by phone last night, with all phones listed under his name on voicemail. A deed search indicated he had bought the house for R9 million in November last year. The property was registered on February 13.

In a statement, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant sent her condolences to the families and also said a team of inspectors had been dispatched to the scene to investigate.

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The Star