Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Tragedy struck in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, recently when a ghastly accident occurred along the Abakaliki-Enugu Expressway, claiming two persons when a Honda car rammed into a stationary fuel tanker parked along the highway and the two went up in flames.
The reporter gathered that the tanker, which had offloaded its content at a petrol station in Calabar, Cross River State, was on its way to Enugu State before its driver noticed that the tanker had developed some faults. That was around the Spera-In-Deo junction.
The reporter learnt that the driver had looked for a safe zone to park the articulated vehicle, with registration number ENU 908 X, in order to run a check on it, before the smaller vehicle rammed into it.
The driver of the truck reportedly pulled over by the expressway, alighted, and was trying to place a caution sign by the tanker when a Honda reportedly knocked him down and rammed into the stationary vehicle, immediately sparking off flames.
The two vehicles were completely burnt. The driver of the Honda, with registration number APP 607 AR, whose name was simply given as Chimaco, was burnt beyond recognition. The tanker driver died instantly.
Chimaco, popularly known as Brain Work, was a welder and metal fabricator. The reporter gathered that he left his workshop, located along Afikpo Road in the state capital, for an appointment before the fatal accident occurred.
An eyewitness, Anene Henry, told the reporter: “The tanker driver parked to check the fault in his vehicle. He came down to place the caution sign on the road, and in the process, the small car knocked him down and rammed into the tanker and caught fire.
“The driver of the articulated vehicle died instantly, and the small car got burnt with its driver inside it.
“The conductor of the tanker had the fire burning on his leg and he ran with it. The information we got was that the conductor died later.”
An elderly man, who gave his name as OJ, corroborated Henry’s account. He said that all efforts by passers-by and other road users could not save the victims.
OJ said: “We saw the articulated vehicle. The tyre had a problem, and the driver was looking for a place to park. As soon as the driver came out and bent down to check the tyre, the small vehicle came and knocked him down. And before we could come out, the vehicle had caught fire.
“It was some Keke NAPEP (tricycle) and Okada (motorbike) riders around that helped in rescuing the others from the articulated vehicle before they were taken to the hospital. But the police and fire service arrived and put out the fire.
“What was brought out of the small vehicle was a very small particle which they said was the remains of the driver of the car. We equally learnt that the driver of the tanker died,” he said.
Another witness who claimed he participated in the rescue efforts, said that the tanker driver was trying to place a caution sign when the Honda’s driver knocked him into the drainage channel along the road.
Meanwhile, some youths who came to the accident scene, some of whom identified themselves as apprentices in the deceased person’s workshop, identified the charred remains of the Honda as belonging to their master.
With tears cascading down their cheeks, they said their master had given them some money for feeding before he left to keep with an appointment. One of them told newsmen that the vehicle belonged to their boss.
“I know this vehicle very well; the plate number belongs to him, this is his car. We were all together till 6 pm yesterday. We normally closed work by 6:30pm. He gave us our feeding money and said he was rushing somewhere. He didn’t stay for the roll call, only for us to come out this morning without seeing him.
“We went to his house and found out that he did not come back home last night. The wife has been calling his number and it was not going through and we have tried the number too and it has not been reachable.
“So, when we got the news of a burnt car along the expressway, we decided to come and check. Lo and behold, it is our oga’s vehicle. Our master’s car was the one that got burnt and we believe he is the one that was burnt to ashes.
“His name is Chimaco but known as Brain Work. He lives at Umuoghara community in Ezza North Local Government Area,” he said.
Another eyewitness who claimed that he knew the welder said: “When I was going for school runs this morning, I saw the accident. I stopped and called somebody I suspected might be involved in the accident but he picked and said that was not his vehicle.
“But while coming back, I stopped because I couldn’t go. When I saw these people crying, I recognised them to be working for a welder along Afikpo Road,” he said.
Commenting on the incident, the head of operations, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Ebonyi State Command, Mr. Charlie Eden, confirmed the development and said that the command has deployed officers to cordon off the scene.
“We are making arrangements to take the vehicles off the road in order not to cause more accidents.
“Only the driver of the Honda was burnt beyond recognition, but the driver of the articulated vehicle who was under the tanker working on his vehicle was saved. But he was in a critical condition. We got information from the Alex Ekwueme Teaching Hospital, where the tanker driver was taken for treatment that he died the following day,” he said.
However, that particular accident was not the first at that spot. Residents claim that many of such ghastly accidents often take place in the area such that there is suspicion that something mystical might be existing within the area.
From Enugu to Abakaliki along the expressway, the spot is located a few poles away from the gate of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (formerly Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, FETHA).
But from Abakaliki through the popular Spera-in-Deo junction towards Enugu, the spot is located shortly after the bridge of Azuiyiokwu stream.
From late last year to this month, quite a number of car accidents have occurred within the area. Many residents say that the area has become notorious for frequent road mishaps.
Towards the end of last year, a tanker fully laden with premium motor spirit was involved in an accident in the place and went up in flames.
Although no life was lost, the streetlight poles and the decorative lights along the median were knocked down, even as the tanker was burnt completely.
Less than 24 hours after the last accident at that spot, another accident occurred within the circumference of the spot. Although no life was lost, the vehicles involved were seriously damaged.