Cape Town - “One woman had crawled down the steps to a bench, she turned to me and asked me, ‘Please tell me, are there legs?’ and I said, yes.”
These are the words of award-winning photographer Roger Sedres moments after he witnessed an explosion at the once-popular restaurant in Cape Town called Planet Hollywood.
Sedres, a photojournalist, had been working at Die Burger on August 25, 1998.
Today, he is the owner of Image SA and founder of Roger Sedres Firearm Training Academy.
The restaurant had been open for just three months when a bomb detonated in an apparent terrorist attack.
Two people died and more than 20 people were injured; a number of people lost their limbs, including a 12-year-old British tourist.
At the time, the United States government sent FBI agents to assist with the investigation.
V&A Waterfront spokesperson Donald Kau said: “The incident took place at what is now the V&A Waterfront Food Market, which is currently closed.”
Two years after the tragedy, the building was up for sale.
For Sedres and the victims, the memory and trauma is something they will never forget.
Sedres had been rushing to meet work colleagues at a restaurant at the V&A Waterfront when he heard the bomb explosion. He was one of the first people at the scene before paramedics or rescue teams or any other media were present.
“We had made a tradition where I was working at the time. Every pay day we would meet for wings and we got paid on the 25th of every month,” Sedres explained.
“On that evening, I was running late as I still had to file a story. I remember, I was rushing and I was at a speed bump near where the Craft Market is. As I approached the speed hump, the car next to me was a vehicle belonging to Waterfront security,” Sedres said.
“We went over the speed hump when we heard a loud thump. The security guards next to me placed their hands to their ears. I was right there when the bomb went off.”
Sedres remembers the screams and how survivors crawled to safety down the steps of the restaurant.
“After the explosion went off, there was this eerie silence, and then there was this smoke, and that is when the screaming started. I felt so helpless, all I could do was take pictures.
“The chefs at the Victoria Alfred Hotel had rushed over with ice buckets and they placed the flesh on it,” he added.
“I felt so helpless, I didn’t know any first aid. My colleagues had called me asking where I was. I said there was a bombing. I had to go for counselling for a year after that – the trauma.”
Weekend Argus photographer Leon Lestrade was also at the scene in the aftermath and said: “What I can remember was the lockdown at the Waterfront with bodies all over. I remember a paramedic carrying one of the injured to safety.”
Photographer Obed Zilwa also received recognition for the photographs he captured on the night of the attack.
A survivor penned his experience years later by writing a letter to IOL media in 2018. Here is an extract:
“The three of us at the bar, Fanie Schoeman, Brian Duddy and Bruce Walsh, had our feet blown off our legs,” he wrote.
“Andrew Paris, who had greeted us at the bar and was walking away at that very moment, had the back of his one leg blown away, and as a result nearly lost it.
“Fanie Schoeman died that night on the floor of the restaurant. Brian Duddy lost consciousness, never to regain it, and died a few days later, while Bruce Walsh survived after sustaining severe injuries and losing both his legs.”