By Ndumiso Mlilo
JOHANNESBURG: A Zimbabwean family is struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of a male relative, his wife (pictured) and a family friend who all plunged one after the other into an elevator pit from 7th floor of a Johannesburg residential flat.
The tragic incident around 10pm last Saturday followed a fight between the deceased couple, Kelvin Nkomo (32) and his wife Charleen Tshabalala.
During the skirmishes, Tshabalala is said to have rushed to try and escape through the lift only to find herself plunge to a painful death through the pit as it turned out the elevator was not on the floor.
The same happened to Nkomo and a friend Ntando Maphosa.
Fanuel Khumalo, an uncle to Nkomo, related the incident.
“While in the corridor, my daughter-in-law (Tshabalala) pressed the lift buttons and it opened. She entered only to fall into the pit as the lift was not by that floor at the time.
“Nkomo tried to rescue her and he fell in as well. Nkomo’s friend, Ntando Maphosa who was with the couple also tried to save them and he fell into the pit and they all plunged down and died. I do not know why the lift opened when it was not on that floor. They did not force it to open.”
The deceased Zimbabwean trio was retrieved the following morning around 4am by police.
Khumalo said the lift could not have been functioning well.
He was contradicted by Nicholas Barnes, CEO of Jozi Housing where tragedy struck.
“It is important to note that the accident was not the result of a failure of the lift. The lift landing doors were secure at the time of the fight between the couple,” Barnes said.
“The doors failed as a result of the extreme force applied to them, which caused the guide shoes at the base of the doors to be bent open.
“Their death was caused by a physical fight between a husband and wife against the lift landing doors on the 7th floor of the building. Such was the force of the fight that the lift landing doors (against which the wife was being pushed) had their lower guide shoes bent out of their rails, resulting in the lift doors swinging open and allowing them to fall down the shaft. A third person, who was trying to stop the fight was also dragged into the lift shaft while trying to prevent the couple from falling.”
Barnes said the lifts went through an annual maintenance routine and a certificate of fitness was only issued August this year.
He said they have since engaged independent lift consultant to conduct a full investigation into what could have happened.
Some of Nkomo’s relatives put the blame on what they claimed was a faulty lift.
They said the building owners should be held responsible for failing to maintain a lift which “swallowed the trio”.
Barnes distanced the flat from the causes of the tragedy.