Amanda Watson
News Editor
2 minute read
16 May 2016
12:02 pm

Blaze deaths due to breaches

Amanda Watson

These include the 'Incident Command System', insubordination and a lack of communication on the ground.

Members of the Johannesburg Emergency management services, other services and family members gathered at Standard Bank Arena in 2015 for a memorial to two firefighters, Daniel Zwane and Michael Letsosa that died whilst tackling a building fire in the CBD | Picture Neil McCartney

The City of Johannesburg yesterday said failure to follow standard operating procedures at the Nedbank building blaze on Albertina Sisulu Street led to the deaths of Daniel Zwane and Michael Letsosa due to smoke inhalation. The tragedy happened on June 16 last year.

“This is an unprecedented occurrence, it really is an isolated incident,” said MMC for Public Safety Sello Lemao. In terms of the Emergency Management Service’s (EMS) Occupational Health and Safety report, there had been various breaches and a failure to implement various procedures .

These include the “Incident Command System”, insubordination, a lack of communication on the ground, a failure to implement breathing apparatus procedures, the personal alert safety systems (Pass) were not activated, and no safety officer was appointed to be on scene. EMS chief Tshepo Makola said the Pass device formed part of the breathing apparatus. He explained that each time a fireman stopped moving, the device would beep and if he or she collapsed, it would eventually beep loudly and continuously.

“So what happened here is that the devices were there but they were not put on,” Makola said. “When the two firefighters collapsed, the devices did not go on, which is why the rescue teams took so long to locate them.”

Makola told The Citizen an officer gave a number of instructions at the scene, but firemen failed to comply with them. “The second investigation will tell us who was given an instruction, what it was, and why it was not complied with,” said Makola. Lemao noted internal and external investigations had been done by the EMS forensic fire investigation unit, and Group Corporate and Shared Services OHSA unit.

“The Fire protection Association (FPA) and the department of Labour conducted external investigations. All the internal investigations concluded with recommendations, while the FPA concluded with its recommendations too,” said Lemao.

“The Department of Labour has not issued a report on this matter to date.” The full reports would not be released to the public, pending disciplinary investigations.

amandaw@citizen.co.za