Man cut in half by recycling machine

A young worker from an East London waste recycling factory was killed when he fell into a baling machine and was cut in half.

Bangisizwe Gopeni, 33, a machine operator at Collectall waste transfer station in the East London IDZ, was sorting waste when he slipped and fell into a funnel and then into the chute of the processing machine.

The blender machine has teeth facing each other which lock together to compact waste, including boxes and plastic, into large bales.

The bales then move along a conveyor belt to be picked up outside by delivery trucks.

Gopeni’s boss, Bronwyn Shaw, said Gopeni, who had four years’ experience as the machine operator, had not been wearing a safety harness.

“Nobody knows why he was not wearing the safety belt,” she said.

The machine sliced into Gopeni’s waist and separated his upper body from his lower body.

A police officer, who asked not to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed finding Gopeni’s body in two pieces in a bale with recyclable waste.

His remains were removed by an emergency team of firefighters and police members.

The incident took place in front of Gobeni’s horrified co-workers.

An inquest docket has been opened by the Fleet Street police.

A visibly emotional Shaw said: “In 10 years of this company’s existence we have never experienced such a traumatic incident.

“This has been very horrific for everyone at the company, especially the staff who witnessed the incident.

“Two guys were coming downstairs when they heard Gopeni screaming in agony.”

Shaw said the two co-workers operated the machine with Gopeni, and described him as a happy employee who was loved by all.

Gopeni, a breadwinner for eight relatives, was from Eziphunzana and is survived by his aunt Zukiswa Gopeni, 47, four siblings and Zukiswa’s three children, who were all dependent on his wages.

Gopeni said she was too traumatised to view the body at the mortuary.

She said the family were informed by the police about the incident and not much more.

“We are in the dark about the incident. No one has come from the company to explain to us what really happened,” she said.

“Bangisizwe was everything to us, we don’t know what we will do without him.”

Shaw said the incident happened after 4pm while workers were finishing off for the day.

Shaw said the department of labour had run a safety and health investigation following the incident and cleared the company of any suspicious conduct.

The Dispatch sent questions to the provincial department of labour but spokeswoman Zipho- sihle Josefu said she could only respond today.

East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said an investigation into the death was still under way. —


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