The victims were burnt beyond recognition and were given mass burial last week. However, today the family of Kenneth Chinedu Nwaokoro, a 24-year-old final year student of Information Technology of Caritas University, Enugu, who survived the accident, is rejoicing.
This lucky young man, from Imo State, was returning to Enugu to complete his final year project, after visiting his brother in Lagos. He is currently on admission at the Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu. Narrating what happened and how he survived, Nwaokoro told Saturday Sun: “When we left the park to embark on the journey, our bus was half filled; so the driver picked passengers along the road until the bus was filled, except for the seat beside me, which I did not allow anybody to occupy.
The excuse I gave was that somebody was sitting there beside because I didn’t want disturbance and more so it was illegal for them to pick passengers along the road. The journey was smooth, so I slept off. “I was sleeping when the accident happened. It was the sound of the collision that woke me up. I woke up to see the driver struggling with the steering to manoeuvre the bus, but everywhere was already on fire immediately the bus collided with the tanker and there was commotion.”
The struggle to escape On how the passengers struggled to escape from impending death, Nwaokoro said: “People where shouting and running towards the entrance, but the door was locked. The bus was one of The Young’s new buses. There was fire everywhere and people were getting burnt. At first, I was confused, but I convinced myself that I would survive. I opened the window and jumped out.
The fire burnt my back and face. On landing, I ran straight to a local hospital close to the scene of the accident, where I had to part with N2, 000 before they gave me first aid. I then contacted my younger brother, who came and took me to Enugu.” Asked if there were other passengers who escaped through the window with him, he said: “I noticed that a guy jumped after me, but he was seriously burnt.
I couldn’t wait to check him because I was burnt too and my hands were fractured.” How he bought the bus ticket Nwaokoro revealed that his name was not on the manifest of the bus because his younger sister bought the ticket for him. According to him, the sister’s name was written on the manifest (seat 23) because when it was her turn to pay for the ticket, the official of the transport company asked for her name and quickly wrote it on the ticket before verifying if she was the one travelling.
He revealed that when the ticket officer realised the mistake, she said that since she had written the name on the ticket, there was nothing she could do. The only remedy offered was to enter Nwaokoro’s phone number against his sister’s name, while his sister’s phone number was entered as next of kin.
Sister corroborates his story The lucky passenger’s younger sister, Catherine Onyinyechi Nwaokoro, said: “I went to the bus centre with him and I bought the ticket. The cashier presumed I was the one travelling and issued the ticket in my name. When I saw the mistake, I called her attention to it and she said it was late as she could not alter the ticket. She said that since the passenger was my brother he could make use of the ticket.
That was why she wrote his phone number on the passenger’s list and my own as the next of kin.” No visit from the transport company When asked if anybody from the transport company The Young, had visited him, Nwaokoro said nobody had. His elder brother, Emmanuel Nwaokoro, told Saturday Sun that he visited the company’s branch office at Jibowu, Lagos, where his brother boarded the bus and he was referred to Maza Maza, in Lagos, where the company’s head office is located.
At the head office, the elder Nwaokoro said when he told the manager that his younger brother survived the accident, he expressed surprise, saying they did not know anybody survived. “When I told the manager about my brother’s survival, he said they didn’t know that somebody survived it. He told us to come back in a week or two weeks’ time to fill insurance form and other relevant documents for compensation.”