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Iworoko: Still in the throes of a double tragedy

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Penultimate Sunday in Iworoko Ekiti was emotion-laden. Crying and wailing were high and in fever pitch. There was anger, confusion and resentment among the crowd that left their various homes to mass at the scene of another accident. While many stood in nearly all the available spaces on the main road, others had moved into the ground zero of the wreckage left by the accident.

At the epicentre of the wreckage and under the monstrous, grounded vehicle, there were a barber shop, a drug store which the locals referred to as a pharmacy; a groceries shop, a basket of okro, metal trays; pieces of measuring or portioning pans are called “lámbébé”, among others. A block of stalls in the Iworoko Market was also not spared; it had a part of it destroyed.

Right in front of the wrecked trailer truck is a mass of metal that used to be a mini bus, popularly known as “Akoto” among Ekiti people. Locals at the scene said the mini bus was hit and dragged and ended up being crushed under the weight of the heavy duty vehicle.

According to residents, there were passengers in the ‘Akoto,’ among who were Ekiti State University (EKSU) students and a serving corps member. None could tell the number of the passengers in the bus, but the maximum number of passengers is seven. They said the corps member was identified by the identity card found as the ‘Akoto’ was dragged from under the wreckage of the trailer.

At the last count, 15 people were reported dead. Those injured were rushed to the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH) in Ado Ekiti, some five kilometers from the scene. Witnesses said that the crash occurred at about 8:30pm on Saturday night. For those in Ado Ekiti, a first pointer to the incident was the howling of sirens past Adebayo area of the town. First, it was Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) vehicles that screamed through the cold Adebayo night. Ambulances soon followed, causing people near the ever-busy Olora Junction to wonder what the howling was all about. Minutes after, the news of the horrific accident filtered into town.

The wailing and confusion of the Saturday night didn›t allow for any meaning full evaluation. By Sunday morning, the extent of damage had become clear. In anger youths blocked the dual carriage way on Sunday morning at the Are/Afao junction and in front of the palace of the Alaworoko.

When a towing truck of the Ekiti State Traffic Management Agency (EKSTMA), popularly called «Da-Green», the youth expressed their anger arrived at the officials asking them to vacate the scene.

“We had called them since the incident occurred, and they are just coming about 10 hours after,» one of the youths told Sunday Tribune.

The young man, wielding a stick, refusing to identify himself said: «so, we should have been waiting for EKSTMA till now, nearly 8:30 this morning since about 8:30 last night when this thing happened! Look at the time now, is that not ridiculous? Let them leave this place. Endurance people (a private mechanic/panel-beating company in Ado Ekiti) came with their truck and pulled the head of the trailer off the Akoto, and that›s how we retrieved bodies of the trapped victims. They should just go!”

The angry youths also mistook a van conveying the advance team of the state›s deputy governor, Chief Bisi Egbeyemi, for a police vehicle, and sent them packing. “We know what they want,” a youth shouted. Asked what it was, one of them claimed that “we heard that they want to come and facilitate how to move the rice the truck was conveying to Akure.”

The trailer was carrying loads of bagged rice, with the campaign and political logo of a senatorial candidate in Ondo State. One of the youths was seen cutting the bags of rice with a machette, but was told to desist by others, who assured him that “nobody can come here to carry any rice.”

There were different reasons proffered as the cause of the accident. Ganiyu Tijani, a tipper driver, said the accident was not caused by brake failure.

“The driver must have dozed off. If not, he should have been able to manoeuvre the truck and hit at the culvert on the road and prevent this tragedy. I say this because he had just climbed a hill. The fact that the vehicle skidded over the road divider and ran into the market speaks volumes about the driver’s carelessness,” he stated.

However, the arrival of Chief Egbeyemi at the community doused the tension as he visited the scene and the palace of Oba Aladejana. Egbeyemi commiserated with the community and promised that government would do something to prevent a recurrence.

The deputy governor was received by the chiefs as the monarch was indisposed. Members of the community also gave the hint that Oba Aladejana was of age and had been under the weather for some time. As it turned out, the traditional ruler died some days later.

Egbeyemi was at the hospital where he saw the injured. He assured that the state government would pick the hospital bills.

Despite the deputy governor’s visit, the agony didn’t abate. Elderly Madam Raliat Karim, said her attention was drawn to the tragedy not so long after she had gone inside her house. She mourned her daughter identified as Funlola, who sold pepper and tomatoes in front of the house.

“Funlola’s son, Olu, also died at the scene. Her grand-daughter, Titilayo, had her legs broken. It’s very sad,” she mourned.

Survivors could only be grateful, and that was all Mr Dotun Owolabi, who is currently at the Male Ward of EKSUTH, could say as he recalled his experience on that day. He had gone to the crushed barber’s shop to charge his phone as is customary among many of the people of the area.

“On that day there was no power on my mobile handset. So I decided to go and charge the phone at the barber›s shop. I had just plugged my phone before I heard a loud noise. I went out to check what was happening. Suddenly I saw the truck coming towards me. The next thing was that I found myself lying under the truck,” he said.

Eight-year-old Titilayo is also recuperating. She told Sunday Tribune that she was at the market with her grandmother and cousin, the late Olu. She was indeed lucky because her broken leg was as a result of a fall into a ditch while she ran on sighting the oncoming trailer that killed her relatives. “I was rescued from the scene by some sympathisers to the hospital,” she stated.

Another survivor, Akanni Amusa Omolayo, who said he works as a security guard with Omodewa Nursery and Primary School, Iworoko, disclosed that the accident caught him unawares.

“I was coming from the market side and heading towards the Alaworoko›s palace when I heard a noise from the spot of the accident. I couldn›t turn back to see was happening before I was hit by the truck,» he stated.

However, even in their anger and bitterness, some of the people of the community are still grateful for the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), as many students of the state university are resident in the community.

The post Iworoko: Still in the throes of a double tragedy appeared first on Tribune Online.

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