A portion of the pedestrian bridge constructed around two years ago on Ring Road by a sub-contractor collapsed near Pir Naseer Chadian Village Stop, Harbanspura on Thursday, crushing to death a dumper truck driver.The traffic from Lahore airport to Harbanspura section of Ring Road remained suspended for rescue work for several hours. It was opened around 11am.
The North Cantonment police took the owner of the company, which constructed the bridge, into custody and registered a murder case against him on the complaint of Ring Road Authority’s Director Operations and Maintenance Asim.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif constituted a four-member committee led by the Chief Minister Inspection Team chairman to probe the incident.
The CM also inspected the overhead bridge and got necessary information from the authorities. He told reporters that an inquiry committee had been set up to investigate the causes of overhead bridge collapse and it would submit its initial report to him within the next 24 hours.
He said in the light of the inquiry report strict action would be initiated against those responsible for the accident.
Initial police investigation said there were flaws in construction and the design was not in accordance with specifications.
Quoting witnesses and crime scene evidence, Cantonment SP Operations Maroof Safdar Wahla told Dawn the bridge collapsed on the front portion of a dumper truck which was coming from airport side around 7:30am.
He said the vehicle’s driver identified as 30-year-old Sajjad Amjad of Sargodha died instantly as rescuers pulled out his body after removing debris from a crane.
The SP said it appeared that a portion of the bridge, which was at least 16.8 feet high, broke and fell on the vehicle from extreme left side. He said both pillars remained intact and investigations were going on to further clear the situation.
He said the police picked up Khalid Rauf, owner of Rauf Constructions, from his Shadman residence around 10:30am. The SP said the complainant mentioned in the FIR that the contractor used substandard material in construction which led to its collapse.
He said it further appeared that the National Logistics Cell was the main contractor which sub-contracted the constructions of pedestrian bridges on Ring Road to Rauf Constructions.
The company has various contracts of roads and bridges in Lahore and other parts of the province. The company’s main venture is construction of Motorway-IV between Multan and Khanewal.
Khalid Rauf told Dawn that his company, which had been working for the last 30 years, had handed over the affected bridge to the Project Management one and a half years ago after getting clearance from the Frontier Works Organization, the National Logistics Cell, Nespak and the Punjab Road Testing Research Laboratory.
He claimed that according to rules the company was not responsible for maintenance and repair after one year of any construction, adding that his company ensured 100 per cent quality of eight pedestrian bridges and other works on Ring Road.
Khalid said even a latest inquiry held by a four-member committee led by the CMIT chairman and comprising Anti-Corruption director general, Lahore Commissioner and DIG (Operations) a few weeks ago also examined the quality of construction work on bridges and declared them fit.
He claimed that the dumper truck first hit the bridge’s girder which slipped a few feet away and then fell on the vehicle. It was out of question that the bridge automatically collapsed owing to poor design and construction.
Khalid further claimed that he had proofs of clearance certificates issued by the agencies concerned and said the bridges were constructed according to specifications and design.
The victim’s relatives protested against the construction company and urged the chief minister to take action against its owner.