By John Bulus, Gombe
The scene was one of horror. It evoked both empathy and sympathy. The wailing and shouting from sympathisers, passers-by, on-lookers, and volunteers reached the high heavens. Reason being that a tragedy of staggering magnitude had struck, leaving over 10 persons instantly dead and over 20 people badly injured.
Consequently, minds quickly raced back to a fire incident that occurred in June last year, occasioned by the collapse of a truck loaded with the highly inflammable petrol in which over 10 persons were burnt alive, while buildings and other valuables worth millions of Naira were destroyed in one fell swoop.
Fatal auto crash
That happened along the ever-busy Jakadafari axis of Gombe metropolis. But this time, it was neither a fire outbreak nor crisis but a fatal auto crash that occurred along the Dukku Road in Gombe metropolis on Thursday, September 29, 2011.
Indeed, fate played a fast one on the people. It came in ways that the people, especially victims of the misfortune hardly had the pre-knowledge of. If most victims of the Thursday accident, just barely 24 hours to the October 1 Independence Day celebrations had had an inkling that death was lurking around, chances were that they wouldn’t have come anywhere near Tashan Dukku, adjacent the accident scene.
A supposedly Gombe-bound trailer loaded with cement coming from Ashaka Cement factory lost control apparently as a result of brake failure and rammed into several vehicles, people, shops and motorbikes, killing 10 persons instantly and leaving several others critically injured.
An eyewitness, Mu’azu Ruwaya told Vanguard Metro, VM, that it was about 3:30 pm when Muslims were preparing for their afternoon prayer when suddenly a bang was heard. Behold, it was a trailer swerving menacingly, smashing every animate and inanimate object on its way before finally resting on a near-by shop along the road after hitting some trees and vehicles.
Tragic tale of two women
Two women waiting to board a taxi travelling to Bajoga in Funakaya Local Government Area of the State and seven other passengers waiting for the cab were not lucky as they died in the crash. While the Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Mr. F. C. Osakwe confirmed the immediate number of deaths to be 10, further investigations have since revealed that so far, 17 persons have died while five vehicles, seven motorcycles were affected by the accident.
The Emergency Units of both the Federal Medical Centre and State Specialist Hospital in the capital city over the weekend that coincided with the Independence Day and Gombe State’s 15 years anniversary were unusually busy with visitors and sympathisers.
Gov Dankwambo’s reaction
Moved by the colossal loss recorded in the tragic incident, Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo after separate visits to the hospitals and the scene of the accident later announced the cancellation of the programmes earlier scheduled to mark the events.
Only the Gala Night which was organised to honour most Champions of Democracy as well as most senior citizens who contributed to the realisation of Gombe State project on October 1, 1996 was spared.
At the Gala Night, the Governor said: “It is with a deep sense of grief but total submission to the will of Allah that I address you on this historic occasion of 51 years of our Independence, and 15 years of the creation of Gombe State.
On Thursday, 29 September, 2011, a tragic motor accident occurred along Tashan Dukku in Gombe leading to loss of many lives and destruction of property. It is for this reason that we decided to cancel all aspects of this celebration except this one.
Before I proceed therefore, I would first of all like to commiserate, on behalf of my family Gombe State, with the families of those who lost their loved ones and other victims of the unfortunate accident involving a heavy truck, five motor vehicles, seven motorcycles and pedestrians.
May the souls of those 17 people who lost their lives rest in peace, and may Allah give their families the courage and fortitude to bear the loss. We also pray for the recovery of those who sustained injuries.
We are deeply saddened by this unfortunate accident, and I wish to assure you of government’s commitment to finding a lasting solution to this and similar incidences that occurred in the past. We will also take care of the medical bills of all those injured as a result of the accident. We are already making arrangements to construct barriers that will prevent heavy vehicles from coming into town, except through bypass.
“Let me use this opportunity to direct Vehicles Inspection Officers and the Federal Road Safety Corps to ensure that only road-worthy vehicles are allowed to ply our roads. Furthermore, the required five meters space on each side of the roads should not be used for the erection of shops and other structures, or street hawking”.
Vanguard gathered that it is the wish of most indigenes of Gombe State that such tragedy will not occur in the future especially at such auspicious moment in the life of the State and the Nation.