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Victim’s family says number killed in Rivers stampede higher than reported

By Obinna Nwaoku, Port Harcourt
30 May 2022   |   3:55 am
Families of victims of persons killed in a stampede at the Port Harcourt Polo Club on Saturday have disagreed with the number of casualties reported.

Church promises to investigate cause
Families of victims of persons killed in a stampede at the Port Harcourt Polo Club on Saturday have disagreed with the number of casualties reported.

A survivor, claiming the death rate was more than the official 31 confirmed by the police, said before the police and paramedics arrived at the scene of the incident, some corpses were already removed by family members.

Samuel Orji-Eke, who lost his five-year-old son in the stampede, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, yesterday, maintained that the number of deaths was more than 31, stressing that his neighbour, a Muslim, lost three children in the incident, buried them the same day according to Muslim burial rite.

He said: “I was shocked when I heard over the radio that only 31 people died. That is not true. When the stampede happened, while I was crying over my son, I saw one man who came to recover the bodies of his four children and his wife, which is five dead bodies, and a lady who died alongside her three children was removed, it was after then, the police asked everybody to stop taking corpses out.

He said: “So, that figure is not correct because when I went to Military Hospital mortuary to identify my son, I counted more than that number, and these other people that came to recover bodies of their loved ones had deposited them in different mortuaries as well.”

Meanwhile, the church, in a statement signed by the Director of Administration, Chimeka Elem, expressed sadness over the incident, noting that the church had commissioned a team of safety specialists to establish the immediate causes of the stampede to enable them provide authorities all required information in compliance with public safety laws.

The statement reads in part: “The King’s Assembly is deeply saddened by the stampede that happened in the early hours before the commencement of our benevolence and outreach programme called Shop-for-Free at Polo Club, in Port Harcourt on Saturday, May 28, 2022.

“The purpose of this non-denominational event is to share with the less privileged the gifts provided by our members, friends, and partners.”

The church, however, wondered what went wrong, stating that it is a safety-conscious church.