Onitsha Fuel Tanker Crash: Death Toll Hits 117

BY SUNNY A. DAVID / ONITSHA WITH AGENCY REPORT
The total dead confirmed from the Sunday fuel tanker crash in Onitsha as at yesterday, has risen to 117, including two pregnant women at various hospitals, where they were taken for treatments.
When our correspondent visited some of the hospitals yesterday, the mortuaries’ attendant confirmed that 48 persons died before 12 pm and most of them were in danger list.
It would be recalled that no fewer than 69 people, 14 mini-buses, three tricycles and a motorcycle were burnt in the accident.
The tanker laden with petroleum products crashed into a bus park located at the Upper Iweka axis of the Onitsha-Enugu Road.
All effort made to contact the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Uche Eze (SP) failed.
Anambra State Governor, Mr. Willie Obiano and the commissioners wept on seeing the number of casualties when they visited the scene of the accident.
He told the relations of the victims to take heart and promised that the state will help in ensuring that the survivors are well taken care of in their respective hospitals.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society state Council officials were the first to arrive at the scene of the incident, and according to its Vice Chairman, Prof Peter Emeka Kathy, “we have 69 burnt to death persons as at now, there are other 30 casualties, a casualty is a living person, a dead person is no longer a casualty, so 69 persons are dead, and they have been moved to various mortuaries in Onitsha, from Toronto to St Charles Boromneo Mortuaries and others in town”.
Said Prof. Kathy: “the dead and casualties caught in the inferno is sequel to the recklessness of the tanker driver who lost his break descending the hill from Boromeo and Army Barracks end of the Onitsha/Enugu Express Way toward Upper Iweka, instead of him looking for a wide gutter to break his vehicle, he veered into a park where passengers were loaded in the vehicle and most of the people that died were passengers inside vehicles in the park.
“If the driver of the tanker is alive, we will ensure that he is arraigned in the court because it is a multiple murder, he was reckless, he knew he was well loaded with petrol and yet, he decided to direct his vehicle into a motor park, he does not care for human lives, how can you veer into a park where you know people were filled in the buses when the road is wide enough for you to control your vehicle”, he stated.
As at the time of the incident when our correspondent visited the scene at about 5.45 pm, all the Divisional Police Officers in Onitsha, including Mr. Rabiu Garba (SP) of Fegge Police Station, Mr. Emeka Ugwu (CSP) of Okpoko Police Station and Mr. Cosmas Eze (SP) of Inland Town Police Station and the Central Police Station, Onitsha Mr. Isah Abubakar were involved in the rescue operation and dispersing onlookers whom were disturbing those involved in rescue operation.
Garba said as police alone removed 22 bodies apart from the ones removed by the Red Cross Society officials and the Federal Road safety Corps.
Men of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and Willie Work Force were not missing in the rescue and evaluation operations.
Meanwhile, hundreds of relatives and other sympathisers from Onitsha, Asaba and their environs, yesterday, thronged the scene of Sunday’s fuel tanker accident, hospitals and mortuaries in Onitsha in search of their loved ones.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that hundreds of people visited the wounded in hospitals, and the mortuaries to identify the remains of their loved ones who were affected in the accident.
Family members were shedding tears endlessly and bemoaned the tragedy that affected their beloved ones.
Several others also visited the scene of the accident to see what happened after the carcasses of the vehicles involved had been towed.
Newsmen who visited Toronto Hospital and Onitsha General Hospital saw some of the corpses of the victims deposited at the mortuaries, waiting for identification and possible collection by their relatives for burial.
The Chief Medical Director of Toronto Hospital, Dr. Emeka Eze, told newsmen that those admitted into the hospital following the accident were in stable condition.
Eze said that the hospital had been able to cope with the large number of patients and had all the necessary medications and equipment meant to attend to them.
“As you can see, they are in good and stable condition”.
“We have been putting in our best and one good thing working for us is that the hospital has the necessary medication and equipment to attend to emergencies such as this’’, he said.
At the Onitsha General Hospital, one of the senior medical personnel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that those admitted to its emergency and accident unit had been transferred to the Anambra State University Teaching Hospital, Amaku in Awka.
“Those alive but suffered various degrees of injury have been transferred as early as 5 a.m. to the State University Teaching Hospital’’, she said.
However, reports say that the security men at St. Charles Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha, restricted movement of people, who had come there to commiserate with the victims.
A bus conductor, Innocent Obioma, who was among the sympathisers, said that his master was trapped in the inferno when he ran to assist the passengers in one of the vehicles the tanker fell on initially.
“As Oga Okoli jumped out of our bus and attempted to help a woman with a baby in one of the buses, the tanker’s content exploded and everybody within the circumference including Oga Okoli got burnt beyond recognition.
“Oh, what a disaster and sad end for my compassionate master.
“What will I tell his wife that gave us some smaller denominations we used as balance for passengers yesterday morning before we left home in Asaba,’’ Obioma said