The managing director of “the world’s highest cable gorge swings” and two of his employees appeared in the Graskop Circuit Regional Court in Mpumalanga on Wednesday on a charge of murdering a woman who plunged to her death last year.
Jo-Anne Samuels, 29, did the popular tandem swing over the gorge with her husband Hendrik on October 3, 2009.
She apparently died when she swung into a rock in the ravine. Her husband suffered multiple injuries.
Police originally investigated a case of culpable homicide. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions also referred the investigation to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court’s occupational health section.
It was found that the incident was not the result of negligence, but the organisers should have foreseen that someone could die.
The rope attached to the platform from which the couple had jumped was allegedly not secured as it should have been, so it was decided to institute criminal prosecutions.
Michael Head, in his capacity as managing director of Vuka Marketing (Pty) Ltd, trading as The Big Swing, and two employees, Doctor Mnisi and Al Martens, who were allegedly on duty that day, were subpoenaed to appear in court on Wednesday.
All three are charged with murder
The company, again as represented by Head, is also charged with contravening the Occupational Health and Safety Act in that it allegedly failed to conduct its/his “undertaking in such a manner that persons who may be affected by the activities were not exposed to hazards to their health and safety”.
The two employees are also charged with contravening the act. The charge sheet alleges they failed to take reasonable care of the health and safety of people who might have been affected by their acts or omissions.
The case was postponed to December for the accused to appoint legal representatives. They are out on warning.
Samuels, a former teacher, and her husband were reportedly tied together in a harness for a tandem jump that fateful Saturday.
The Big Swing’s website states that the gorge swing is an adrenalin rush of a 68m freefall – the same height as an 18-storey building – in under three seconds.
Part of the evidence that might be handed in is a DVD of the couple’s jump, recording Samuels’s harrowing last seconds.
It is believed the couple made the first swing across the gorge, but, as they started swinging back, they apparently fell downwards.
Eyewitnesses said the couple’s shrieks of excitement suddenly turned into horrified cries, apparently when they realised they were falling.
Samuels slammed into the cliff face near the bottom of the gorge, breaking her husband’s fall. She apparently died on impact. The couple were left dangling, Hendrik still tied to his wife’s body.
Despite his own injuries, he apparently still tried to resuscitate his wife, while calling for help.
Because of the narrow area and steep cliffs, a rescue helicopter could not descend into the ravine. Rescuers took close to five hours to get the husband out on a stretcher, before they could recover his wife’s body.
At the time, newspapers quoted a “visibly shaken” Head as saying that all the equipment had been checked after the accident and found to be in working order.
Source: Pretoria News