By Charles Adingupu
It was a dark day last Monday for the entire Vincentian community of the Catholic Church as they were thrown into mourning as six philosophy seminarians of the congregation died in a motor accident with eleven others sustaining various degree of injuries. The Vincentian philosophy students were travelling from Ikot-Ekpene, Akwa-Ibom State to attend a compulsory human development programme scheduled at Enugu. But unfortunately, this could not be as one of the two 16-seater buses conveying them had a burst tyre at Otu-Ozara just a few kilometers away to their destination.
In an emotion-laden letter announcing the sudden demise of the seminarians, who were students of Saint Joseph Major Seminary in Ikot-Ekpene, to members of the Vincentian community, the Provincial Secretary, Rev. Fr. Joachin Nwaorgu (CM) wrote, “We regret to announce the sudden death of six of our philosophy seminarians this morning along Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road.”
The letter further listed the names of the diseased students to include Emeka Osisiuri, Joachim Ehirmeyoma, Emmanuel Agbo, Emmanuel Adah, Michael Nwafor and Emmanuel Okoli. Rev. Fr. Nwaorgu who commiserated with his fellow Vincentian brothers, prayed God to grant eternal peace to the souls of the faithful departed.
How it happened
An eyewitness account disclosed that the vehicle somersaulted about three times before it came to a halt. “Immediately, people of the community (Otu-Ozara) swooped in on the bus on a rescue mission and to their dismay, six of the students had died on the spot while 11 other passengers sustained various degree of injuries”, the eyewitness said.
The hand of fate
A priest of the mission who would not want his name in print disclosed that the tragedy would have been worse had not the Director, Rev. Fr. Akobundu (CM) insisted that they must attend the programme in two different buses. “The programme the students were attending was compulsory. Conventionally, we go with one bus. But nobody knows what came over the Director who persisted that the students would be conveyed in two separate buses. That singular decision helped to reduce the disaster. Perhaps, it would have been worse than this”, said the clergyman.
A senior priest of the mission and professor of law, Rev. Fr. Basil Okoro (CM) disclosed to Saturday Vanguard while on a visit to the injured students at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku/Ozalla last Tuesday that they were gradually recuperating but lamented that they were still placed in the intensive care unit (ICU).
He disclosed that specialist medical doctors had been deployed to the hospital to administer treatment on the survivors as most of them were suffering internal bleeding. Rev. Fr. Okoro who was emotionally depressed to make further comments, however hoped and prayed that efforts would be put to avert loss of anyone of the injured students.
Safeguarding the survivors
However, an impeccable source hinted that one of the students as at last Thursday was not responding to treatment like his mates and expressed fear that except there was divine intervention he might go the way of the other six.
“Our eyes are filled with tears at the moment. It’s indeed a difficult time for us (Vincentian family). It was a monumental loss,” lamented Rev. Fr. Mike Iroh (CM) who disclosed last Wednesday that three out of the eleven survivors were still in critical state. Rev. Fr. Iroh who prayed for quick recovery of the injured wondered how the accident happened at Otu-Ozara which is barely fifteen minutes drive to Enugu, their destination.
While recalling his last moment with the dead students in Nnewi last week during an apostolate programme, Rev. Fr. Iroh described them as humble servants of God with unquestionable commitment and total dedication in their various callings. In a mass celebrated in Lagos for the reposed of the dead students’ souls, Rev. Fr. Jenfa Adedayo (CM) recalled with nostalgia his encounter with some of them in the past. While praying God to grant them eternal rest, Rev. Fr. Jenfa in an emotion-laden voice disclosed his first meeting with one of the diseased students, Emeka Osisiuri.
According to him, “Emeka was an epitome of love and humility. Nobody would meet Emeka for the first time without the deceased leaving positive impression of himself. I remember telling him that he (Emeka) would be a good priest. And in his usual characteristic manner, he accepted the compliment with a broad smile and quietly walked away. That is Emeka for you.
“Unfortunately, Emeka was a toddler when his father died. His widow mother singularly brought him up. In other words, he barely knew his father. But as he grew up to become a teenager, he made up his mind to embrace the priesthood vocation. Unfortunately, he did not conclude his journey just like his five peers in the ill-fated bus.”
Resting in the bosom of the Lord
The clergyman expressed optimism that all the dead students were currently resting in the bosom of the Lord just as he urged parishioners to pray for their souls. Rev. Fr. Iroh disclosed that the provisional council of the congregation would sit and take decision regarding the final rites of the dead students as their corpses belong to the Vincentians.
Already, plans have been concluded to bury the dead students on March 11, 2016 at Ikot-Ekpene. The Vincentians are the male counterparts of the Daughters of Charity. However as at press time, the Superior-General of the Vincentian in Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Cyril Mbata (CM) and the Superior of Ikot-Ekpene House where the deceased students belonged, Rev. Fr. Dr. Evarestus Igwe (CM) could not be reached.