Two people were killed and at least 21 injured when the scaffolding at the Grayston interchange collapsed over both the north and southbound lanes of the highway, causing a major traffic jam.
By early evening emergency services personnel had rescued all the people trapped.
“We are now left with body recovery,” said Johannesburg emergency services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi.
A Toyota Fortuner and a minibus taxi were trapped under the debris. By 9.30pm emergency personnel were working to shore up part of the collapsed structure to make it safe so a body trapped in the Fortuner could be recovered. Then, said Mulaudzi, the clearing of the wreckage could begin.
The occupants of the Fortuner are believed to be a family travelling from Durban.
The other fatality was in the taxi.
Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau was on the scene last night. He said it was now a crime scene.
“All the major investigating institutions are on site,” he said. “Corrective action will be taken.”
Tau said the building of the pedestrian bridge would continue.
Last night it was not known what had caused the collapse.
Cranes were brought in to move the debris. One mobile crane weighing 400t was driven in under police escort from Brakpan.
The plan, said an employee of the crane company,was to use two cranes in a simultaneous lift. Engineers had to make the remains of the collapsed bridge safe so rescue workers could have access to the injured in the debris.
Fire personnel from Alexandra, Modderfontein and Sandton responded to the accident. The EMS also had its urban search and rescue unit on the scene.
Gauteng MEC for transport Ismail Vadi said it was still unclear how long it would take before the debris would be cleared.
Police forensic teams had begun their investigation.
He advised motorists today to take alternative routes and transport to Sandton and other areas affected by the accident.
Vadi said the Gautrain was considering having more trains running.
“Also, bus companies will be adding more capacity,” he said.
Murray & Roberts, the company responsible for construction of the bridge, said the cause of the scaffolding’s collapse was unknown.
Group CEO Henry Laas, who was at the scene late last night, said the company would assist the Department of Labour with the investigation.
Murray & Roberts’ shares fell the most in more than four-and-a-half years after the collapse. The stock dropped 7.3% to R11.15 at the close of trading – extending its decline for the year to 48%.