By Bose Adebayo & Fredrick Okopie
When the downpour started in the early hours of Thursday, commuters and motorists at the ever-busy Apapa/Oshodi Expressway were prepared for the usual gridlock as such downpour had always resulted in the road being flooded.
True to their fear, this was exactly what happened. But then they also underestimated the extent of this familiar problem.
This is because about three hours later they were still trapped in the near standstill bumper-to-bumper traffic jam. That wasÂ when it dawned on most of them that the cause of the problem went beyond the rain and the attendant flooding.
And soon enough information filtered in that a multiple accident had occurred at the Alaba Express Bus-stop close to the Amuwo-Odofin Low-Cost Housing Estate.
It was not until they got to the bus-stop that they were confronted by the enormity of the accident. Indeed many of them could not believe their eyes when they saw a tipper dangling dangerously from a badly damaged pedestrian bridge at the bus-stop. The tipper was said to have hit the bridge with its carriage and brought down a section of it in the process. This occurred around 4am according to eyewitnesses.
In fact, some residents of the nearby estate were the first to see the unusual spectacle of a truck hanging precariously under theÂ pedestrian bridge having witnessed the accident as it occurred. One of them, Chief Gabby Okorere, informed that he was at the scene of the accident a few minutes after it happened.
Decrying â€œthe careless attitude of our trailer driversâ€,Â he, however, blamed slow response on the part of both government and private emergency rescue agencies for why the accident scene degenerated into total confusion later. According to him, the situation became worse after some other heavy-duty vehicles rammed into the stricken, partially suspended truck under the bridge, a development that could have been avoided if emergency rescue operation had commenced onÂ time.
Vice-Chairman of Jakande Estate Community Development, Mr. Tony Okotie,Â told Vanguard Metro that â€œthe accident happened around 4:00 a.m when a tipperâ€™s carriage hit the flyover bridge. Not quite long after,Â a trailer with plateÂ number XC 358 SKK loaded withÂ goats rammed into the debris from the collapsed bridge which worsened the situation. Immediately the accident happened, the tipper driver bolted away, but the conductor was caught andÂ handed over to the policemen at Festac Divisionâ€.
Vanguard Metro gathered that a tragi-comical drama ensured when area boys were said to have invaded the scene and under the pretext of assisting in rescue operations pounced on the hapless goats and made away with some of them.
An eyewitness who is a resident in the estate informed Vanguard Metro on condition of anonymity that he saw some of the area boys butchering and roasting the goats they stoleÂ from the accident scene somewhere within the estate. Perhaps more goats couldÂ have been lost to the area boys if the driver of the vehicle had not alerted his Northern kinsmen who immediately stormed the scene from their nearby settlementÂ to safeguard the goats.
They were said to have chased away some area boys who were still hovering around presumably with the intention of snatching more goats.
The accident brought commercial activities to a standstill for hours as the debris of the collapsed bridge barricaded the expressway, a situation which was not helped by the early morning downpour.
â€œThe road was free at the time the accident happened. I believe such an incident would have been averted if the driver was patient enough,â€ said a commercial bus driver.
When Vanguard Metro visited the scene of the accident, cranes from construction giant, Julius Berger and the Lagos State Transport Management Authority, LASTMA, were seen battlingÂ to evacuate the badly damaged trailer and the debris from the place.
Men of the Federal Roads Safety Commission, plaincloth security agents and LASTMA officials were also on hand to control traffic.
A fallout of the accident was that many commuters were stranded as commercial drivers took advantage of the situation to increase their fares by over 100 per cent. As at 1pm, commuters were seen trekkingÂ long distances.
Danfo buses charge as much as N350 from Oshodi to Mile Two while other buses charged between N250 and N300 Motorcycle riders popularly called Okada also charged as much as N1,000 from CeleÂ Â to Wharf.