It was a harvest of deaths from accidents yesterday as no fewer than 53 people perished in three ghastly road accidents, 15 in Onitsha, 32 in Bauchi and six on the Kaduna-Abuja expressway.
In the Bauchi mishap, 24 male and nine female travellers died when two vehicles belonging to Yobe Line had a head-on collision at Azare town. One of the two was reported to be travelling from Kano while the other was coming from Potiskum.
The corpses have been deposited in various mortuaries of the state hospitals.
Bauchi State Sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Zakari Mamman, attributed the accident to impatience and reckless driving.
In a simila development, no fewer than 15 people were reportedly crushed to death in the early hours of yesterday at the foot of the Niger Bridge in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State, when a truck loaded with two 40-footer containers lost control and fell on passersby.
Eyewitnesses said that the accident occurred when some touts collecting emblem fees for the Anambra State government attempted to forcefully stop the truck coming from the Asaba end of the bridge. The vehicle with registration number XM 858 MUS lost control and ran into some oncoming vehicles.
The accident involved seven other vehicles four of which were commercial buses and three private ones going to Asaba from Onitsha.
Mrs. Rose Iwuno, one of the survivors in the mangled buses, said the accident would have been avoidable, if the urchins had not accosted the truck driver.
Four commercial buses with Registration numbers XA 556 BUR, XD 566 ABN, XA 893 ACA and AWK 526 XA were crushed while many of their occupants were killed during the incident.
Mrs. Iwuno, who said she was going to buy things at the Tollgate, Asaba, before the incident occurred, added: “Our driver noticed that the driver of the truck with two containers was trying to control his truck, our driver tried to escape it but it was too late.
Other vehicles were at both sides and even at the back. Then, most of us passed out but what I could remember was a heavy sound. That was when one of the containers from the truck fell off and crushed a bus in-front of us before rolling down towards our own bus.”
The 40ft container fell off the truck when the driver lost control, resulting in the heavy truck skidding off the road and running at the other lane ramming into one of the heavy pillars at the bridgehead and somersaulted.
Iwuno told LEADERSHIP that she did not know the number of casualties yet, but said that all those who were involved were likely to die.
An angry mob went on the rampage, setting ablaze a make-shift office of the emblem collectors along the ever-busy Onitsha-Asaba highway. The toll collectors took to their heels.
The activities of the toll collectors were said to have been responsible for loss of lives on the road on several other occasions.
When contacted, the state police public relations officer, Mr. Emeka Chukwuemeka, confirmed the incident, but said that only two people died.
Meanwhile, at least six people were burnt to death in a car accident that occurred in Rikana, along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway.
According to an eyewitness, Yakubu Obande, the accident which happened at around 5pm left 10 other people injured.
He said: “The incident occurred when a J5 vehicle which was conveying people from Sokoto to Abuja caught fire at Rikana village, Jere town.”
Only officials of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency were at the scene of the accident, he noted.
The zonal commandant of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr. Samuel Aboyemi, confirmed the incident when contacted.
The cause of the accident had not been established as at press time.