Tragedy struck on Thursday at Ikeja Along Bus Stop on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Lagos State, after a heavily loaded 40-foot container truck fell on a government meat van, crushed a passerby, and wounded several others.
Eyewitnesses said the truck had swerved off the road to avoid colliding with some policemen, who were chasing a motorcycle rider, before the incident occurred around 9am.
The victim, identified as Samuel Ogunnaike, was an employee of a popular phone dealer in Computer Village, Ikeja, and was on his way to the office when he met his death.
Any hope that he could survive the accident was dashed after he was trapped for about four hours before his body was retrieved from the wreckage.
The van, Eko Meat Van, with number plate XY 433 AA was levelled after one of the containers fell on it. The driver and three passengers in the vehicle, however, escaped with injuries.
Eyewitnesses blamed the accident on the police.
One of them, Michael Energy, said overzealous policemen, who were chasing a motorcyclist, caused the confusion that led to the accident.
He said, “I was coming from Agege when I saw a commercial motorcyclist, popularly called okada, driving against traffic. He was carrying a man and a lady as passengers.
“Some police officers who were coming from Ikeja Along tried to stop him, but he ignored them.
“They gave him a chase and brushed the okada with their vehicle, which sent the rider and his passengers sprawling on the road.
“Another police van came, and seeing the scene, decided to wait. At this point, the two police vehicles blocked the road.
“The Eko meat van was coming on the same road, and since the police had blocked the major road, he had no option, but to stop.
“The trailer, carrying two containers, was on top speed. I think his brake failed because he was unable to control the speed.
“The driver of the trailer, while trying to avoid colliding with the police officers, swerved and ended up ramming into the van and killing the man who was passing by.”
Energy claimed that immediately the accident occurred, the police vehicles disappeared from the accident scene.
A member of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who would not want to be named said, the corps treated two of the casualties at the accident scene, before they were taken to the state’s hospital.
He said two other people that were badly injured had also been taken to an undisclosed hospital before the NSCDC officials arrived.
Mukaila Rauf, a 24-year-old meat seller, who escaped unhurt in the meat van, said he sat at the back of the van.
Rauf said, “I saw the police pursuing three bikes. Suddenly, we heard the trailer hooting. He tried avoiding us, but its tail hit the van and one of the containers fell on us. Our driver was badly injured.”
The atmosphere quickly turned to that of hostility as the crowd jeered and booed the policemen who later cordoned off the area.
This began a long line of traffic, just as passengers of vehicles began to disembark and started trekking to their destinations.
A police officer at the scene, however, told Punch Metro that the police was not to blame for the accident.
She claimed that the accident had occurred because the bike rider and the meat van had taken one way.
She said, “The motorcycle and the van were taking one way when the police were trying to stop them. The driver of the truck then on top speed hit the van.”
South-west coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said, “We got conflicting accounts from the policemen and the public, so we don’t know exactly the number of the casualties and what exactly transpired. We only took out one dead body.”
Timeline of rescue efforts
At 11.00am, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority brought a towing truck which had to be pushed by policemen to the accident scene after it broke down. This drew jeers from the crowd.
When it was 12:00pm, it became clear the truck was useless and had to be abandoned as LASEMA and NEMA brought their generator and gadgets to remove the trapped body.
At 1.14pm, the rescue agents were tired. The generator was off and when they tried to restart it, it didn’t respond for some time.
At 1:16pm-, a bigger towing truck belonging to Dex Project Limited, arrived the scene, but at this time, the body had been retrieved from the gravel-covered ground.
At 1.18pm, Ogunnaike’s corpse was removed and put into a blue bag, then carried into an ambulance belonging to the State’s Environmental Health Monitoring.
School children stuck
Some metres away from the accident, a train was on motion. It was fully loaded with school children from eight different schools who were occupying different compartments of the train.
The children were on excursion.
The train, however, got a call to stop because part of the accident happened on its tracks.
By the time our correspondent was leaving the scene at 2pm, some of the schoolchildren had started disembarking because the road was blocked.