Mystery still surrounds the whereabouts of an East London man who went missing soon after he survived a trench collapsing on him and three fellow workers 13 years ago.
Boy Ximba was the only survivor of the four in the incident, which happened near Fairlands Home for the Aged in Cambridge while they were working for Ferrucci Construction.
The July 1997 incident made headlines at the time and saw Paolo Ferrucci of Ferrucci Construction facing criminal charges and charges relating to the contravention of various sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of the Department of Labour.
But police and the department never found Ximba, who was supposed to testify during the trial.
Former Labour Department employee Ivan Niranjan, who worked on the case and now works for Durban University of Technology, said by the end of the trial no-one could locate Ximba.
“He was meant to be a witness because the other guys had died, but he never pitched up. But in the end we got a prosecution because we had all the evidence we needed,” he said.
During the trial, Ferrucci pleaded not guilty to culpable homicide. In an article published in the Dispatch on June4, 2001, he told the court that he had “personally conducted two inspections, one at the top and the other on the inside of the 4m-deep trench, minutes before it collapsed”.
Former colleague Makhosonke Mqikela yesterday said he also never saw Ximba after the incident, and his whereabouts remain a mystery.
Ferrucci said yesterday he did not remember the details of the case or what had happened to Ximba.
“He was from somewhere around East London but I never saw him again after the incident. I remember the case but not the exact details because it happened many years ago.
“I have had a couple of hundred of people working for me each year since the time of that accident. So you can multiply that by the many years since, so no, his name does not ring a bell. I do remember that we paid two-thirds of salaries for five years to the families of the deceased,” said Ferrucci.
Detective Inspector Norman Parent, who was investigating the case at the time and has since retired, said he could not remember much about the case.
“It happened so many years ago, it would be difficult to comment because I do not know the exact details,” said Parent.
Ferrucci, who was 54 at the time, was ordered to pay R50000, or face 20 months in jail for culpable homicide.
He was also ordered to pay a further R20000, or spend 10 months in jail, which was suspended for three years on condition he was not convicted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act again.
The court acquitted him on other charges relating to contravention of various sections of the act.
Source: Daily Dispatch Online