Highway to death
On Saturday, November 19, 2022 on my way back from a wedding ceremony late afternoon, I stumbled upon a horrific accident scene at the Ugwu Onyeama Enugu Expressway. A tanker had just collided with a coaster bus carrying passengers who were on their way back from an event.
Mangled bodies covered in blood were strewn everywhere, people had clustered around the scene and the sight was traumatic. I had to make a split second decision whether to move on or to stop. I noticed one of the victims was moving, and requested my drivers to stop.
I alighted from my vehicle with my aides, including those in my back up vehicles and approached the scene. To my shock and dismay, most of the people standing around there, who just parked their own cars by the side of the expressway were simply busy with their cellphones taking pictures and making videos of the gruesome incident.
We literally had to fight many of them away from the scene, especially some heartless souls with their phones held up at point blank range against the faces of victims, recording their agony and their dying groans.
I noticed more of the victims were breathing and we tried to get motorists who were slowing down purely to watch the horror, to help us to transport the victims to the nearest hospital to no avail. They would slow down, peek and pass.
I made my way to the victim that first caught my eye, a lady who appeared unconscious but was moving her hand. When I approached her, and she heard my voice, all she could mutter was, ‘biko, jide m aka’ (please hold my hand). I assured her she would be ok, the lady lying beside her, also dressed in the same uniform was groaning in intense pain.
No emergency medical response services in sight, Not even Road Safety officials, I noticed a young man who introduced himself as Stanley Egbuonye from Obosi with his two relatives, and another lady, Mrs Ambrose Egbosimba, who were equally scouting for good Samaritans to transport survivors to the nearest hospital. Nobody else seemed willing to help. Some were even trying to avoid my eye and my pleas as they snaked their way past the gory scene.
Together with Stanley and his two co-travelers, we lifted several of the victims into our vehicles and headed for the hospital. The road was blocked with traffic but we eventually got there. The hospital staff swung into action and battled to save those that were still breathing. Most of them did not survive.
It was tough to keep answering calls on their handsets…worried relatives wondering why they had not yet returned, and having to inform them of the accident, and to start heading out to the hospital but unable to tell them their loved ones had passed on.
We left the hospital late in the evening as some of the bodies were being conveyed to the hospital mortuary. Only God knows the fate of the already dead victims at the accident scene as we were trying desperately to save those that were still breathing.
I am yet to recover from the trauma of this incident, the thin thread between life and death and the callousness of everyday people to the plight of other human beings in distress.
The raw reality of the third world hits whenever situations like these arise. The highest point of civilization is the consideration, empathy and compassion for the other. Any country where functional emergency services or basic ambulance services is considered a luxury or even unattainable in this 21st century remains ‘underdeveloped’, not ‘developing’. It is as simple as that.
This could have happened to anyone. These were gaily dressed guests, many joyfully resplendent in their uniforms, probably happily chatting together in their hired bus returning from a function, but never made it home.
I keep replaying the voice of the victim who, all she requested of me (a total stranger who she could not even open her eyes to see at that moment), believing she was about to make her transition from life to death, was that I hold her hand.
The loneliness and fear that grips every living soul at that critical moment of departure from this world hit me hard. I consider it a sacred privilege to have been there for her. She did not make it. Only God knows why I was on that highway at that material time when I could have chosen other routes.
Until we get our Accident and Emergency response facilities right in this country, we are all watching a ticking time bomb. Yesterday it was them, today and tomorrow…who knows who might be the next victims? In so far we all live in this country and do not mandate our governments to make this a priority, it will be turn by turn…
I wish the injured speedy recovery. May God come to their aid. May the souls of all who lost their lives that Saturday in the tragic accident at Enugu Expressway Rest in Perfect Peace. Amen.