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SA supreme court rejects appeal over concert death

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) of South Africa has rejected an appeal by one of the companies held responsible for a scaffolding tower collapse that killed one person at a Linkin Park show in South Africa in 2012.

In 2017, nearly five years after the death of 32-year-old Florentina Popa, Cape Town magistrate Ingrid Arntsen ruled that Vertex Scaffolding, Bothma Signs and Hirt & Carter – which constructed two large scaffolding towers at Cape Town Stadium and hung an advertisement for Lucozade between them – had been negligent and could be “causally linked” to Popa’s death, while Big Concerts, the promoter of the show, was found not to be responsible.

Popa died of blunt-force trauma after the tower fell on her in strong winds before Linkin Park show’s at the 58,309-seat stadium on 7 November 2012.

Arntsen said the companies should have foreseen that even moderate winds could have blown it over. “[W]inds with speeds of up to 15 metres per second were eminently foreseeable in Cape Town, and the towers could have been designed and constructed in such a way as to withstand the winds that were recorded on the day of the concert,” she said at the time.

“There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law … on which a review might be founded”

“It would appear, then, from all the evidence, that while the wind did come up and create problems, there was no real fear on the part of anyone in authority at the concert that the towers would blow over.”

Durban-based Hirt & Carter, which produces billboards and digital advertising, took the inquest’s findings to the Western Cape High Court, which dismissed the appeal, and then to the Supreme Court of appeal, which has upheld the high court’s ruling.

SCA judge Sulet Potterill, with four judges concurring, found that Arntsen “cannot be faulted for concluding that the death of the deceased was brought about by an act or omission that prima facie amounts to or involves an offence on the part of Hirt & Carter”, reports News24.

“It was premised on a finding of negligence on the part of Hirt & Carter. There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law by the magistrate of the kind on which a review might be founded. Indeed, I can find no error at all.”

Hirt & Carter’s appeal argued that the magistrate had erred when she found that it had omitted to supervise and manage the erection of the towers, which it said was the responsibility of a subcontractor (Bothma Signs).

In her judgment, Potterill disagreed, saying Arntsen “was correctly unpersuaded that the subcontracting of Bothma Signs and Vertex, against the facts of the case, could be relied on to exonerate Hirt & Carter.”

A further 19 people were injured in the accident, with 12 requiring hospitalisation.

 


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