Consulting engineer who signed off plans for collapsed George ...

10 May 2024

A well-known Paarl-based consulting engineer, Athol Mitchell, who signed off on the plans for the ill-fated 75 Victoria project in George, was found after initially being reported missing on Thursday morning.

Neo Victoria Developments - Figure 1
Photo Daily Maverick

In a post on the Pink Ladies Facebook page placed on Thursday, it was reported that 76-year-old Mitchell had last made contact with his son on 8 May.

The Pink Ladies Facebook Post.

“Athol, who is considered extremely vulnerable, last made contact with this son on 8 May 2024 at 13h31 from the Botterberg Rd (off the N7 on the Philadelphia side).

“His cell is now off and he has not been seen or heard from since.”

Later an image of Mitchell’s vehicle, a Suzuki Grand Vitara, was captured heading “towards Durbanville past Mosselbank”. The post said he was believed to be heading to the Durbanville Vierlanden Estate.

Hours later the Pink Ladies posted that Mitchell had been found.

“Thanks to SAPS, family and friends, community and other role players. Kindly respect the family’s right to privacy” read the notice.


Documents filed with the George Municipality show that Mitchell & Associates signed off the plans for Erf 15098, Victoria Street, on 14 March 2024.

This was after former George town planner Jan Vrolijk, now working privately and who was mandated by the owners of the land, Pacific Breeze Trading 91, was given approval for the project on 1 January 2024 by Clinton Petersen, senior manager of town planning in the George Municipality.

Earlier, in March 2021, Vrolijk, on behalf of Pacific Breeze, applied for the number of floors of the development to be increased from “four to five”.

Neo Victoria Developments - Figure 2
Photo Daily Maverick

Part of the plans for Erf 15098 signed off by Mitchell & Associates.

The same month, a local conveyancer certified that the title deeds contained “no conditions restricting the contemplated land use in terms of the Land Development Application”.

Apartments were originally pre-advertised with a price tag of R 1.7-million for a two-bedroomed unit by one agent in the area, with the start of construction earmarked for 1 April 2023, completion on 31 March, with 1 May 2024 as the occupation date.

The development, it was later announced, would be completed by July 2024 with occupation in August.

The apartment block was nearing completion when the horrific implosion occurred on Monday afternoon. The death toll has risen to eight, with 37 workers pulled from the rubble, 16 in critical condition.

The number of people who were on site at the time of the building collapse is now believed to have been 81. With 37 removed from the rubble as of Thursday morning, this leaves 44 victims unaccounted for, while time is running out.

Family, friends and relatives have been holding a vigil near the site located opposite the George Municipality headquarters.


Plans for 75 Victoria, as the development was named, had been in the pipeline for some time, a Daily Maverick investigation revealed this week.

Neo Victoria Developments - Figure 3
Photo Daily Maverick

Read more in Daily Maverick: What is known about Erf 15098, Victoria Street in George, the site of the deadly building collapse

In August 2020, the owner of a 1,228m² plot of land, Erf 15098, located on Victoria Street, sold the property for R2.07-million in a private sale to a company, Pacific Breeze Trading 91.

The deal was finalised on 4 November 2020, according to the Deeds Office. Directors of the company are Anton Booysen, Carel Swanepoel and Annette Swanepoel. Pacific Breeze was registered in 2005.

In November 2020, the George Municipality held a “pre-consultation” meeting with an official, Ilane Huyser, and then town planner Vrolijk, as the “pre-applicant” for rezoning and deviations for the planned development.

Records show that applications were made by Vrolijk for changes to the original plans. These included an extra level, turning an original three-storey plan into a four-storey block, as well as adding basement parking.

Earlier, in September 2020, a Land Use Planning Pre-Application Consultation Form had been completed and was re-submitted at the November meeting with the municipality.

Discussions then were about rezoning as well as various deviations, including building line relaxations, height, coverage, floor space and parking requirements.

It was proposed that the building would now include basement parking and that it would be increased from four to five storeys to include ground-floor parking, over and above the basement parking.

Neo Victoria Developments - Figure 4
Photo Daily Maverick

The building would be 14.45m tall and a roof garden (2.72m high) was proposed, which would raise the height to 17.17m.

The proposal also contained 66 parking bays with a ratio of 1.25 per unit and 0.25 per visitor, which would be housed in the basement. There were also proposals for the adjustment of building lines.

Investigations continue

A letter sent by the developers, Neo Victoria Developments, to Caxton Media Group provided a list of entities and individuals involved in the development and construction of the building:

Owner of the land: Neo Victoria Developments Pty Ltd. Development co-ordination and management: Neotrend Developments Pty Ltd & East Africa Development Pty Ltd. The development contractor in control of the construction and building site: Liatel Developments Pty Ltd. Structural and civil engineer: Mitchell & Associates. Project architect: Deon van der Westhuizen Architects cc. Principal agent: Mitchell & Associates. Quantity surveyor: Matla Quantity Surveyors Pty Ltd. Health & safety officer: 4Front Safety and Security Consultants Pty Ltd. Electrical engineer: Clinkscales Maughan-Brown Pty Ltd. Fire engineer: Duane Hodges Consulting Engineer

A statement issued by the company stated that, “In as far as the media referred to Ice Projects Pty Ltd being involved in the development, it must be noted that is factually incorrect. This party is not involved in any capacity in the development.”

The statement added “We mourn the loss of life, the injuries suffered, and the bereavement of the loved ones and families affected. We are deeply moved by the actions of the rescue teams and authorities.”

The company said it would cooperate fully with authorities and any process in the current investigation.

An independent probe has been launched. Western Cape Premier Alan Winde told the media that specialist engineers had been appointed to investigate the collapse.

Anton Bredell, Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC, said the investigation would include input from several roleplayers, including forensic investigators, police and Department of Labour staff. DM

This is a developing story.

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