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Samson Folarin and Afeez Hanafi
No fewer than 10 passengers have been killed, while 12 others were severely burnt after a Mazda car collided with a loaded commercial bus at the Iya-Afin bus stop, in the Badagry area of Lagos.
While the commercial bus, with number plate, LAR 279 DK, was heading inwards Badagry, the Mazda, with number plate, KJA 6454 XF, was going in the opposite direction.
The commercial bus driver was reported to have driven against the traffic to evade customs officers who were trailing him in their patrol van.
The two vehicles were said to have had a collision in the process.
As injured passengers made to extricate themselves from the wreckage, jerrycans of fuel tucked in the booth of the Mazda reportedly triggered an explosion.
While 10 of the passengers were burnt to death, 12 survivors were said to be on a watch list due to the severe burns they sustained.
Our correspondents gathered that rescue agents from the Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos State Fire Service and the Badagry Police Division responded to the emergency.
The survivors were said to have been rushed to the Badagry General Hospital, while the corpses were deposited in the hospital’s morgue.
A resident, Seun Adebayo, said the incident happened around 8pm on Monday, adding that a pregnant woman and a teenage boy, identified as Mustapha, survived the crash.
He said Mustapha was inside the commercial bus and had gone to buy some goods.
He said, “The incident happened around 8pm. The bus, coming from Badagry veered into the path of the car heading towards Seme. The bus driver was trying to evade arrest because customs officers were on the road. The two vehicles collided in the process and went up in flames. A friend counted seven burnt corpses.
“A pregnant woman and a trader, Mustapha, were lucky to have escaped. They live around here, but their families want privacy for them for now because they are still in shock.”
Another witness, who identified himself only as Duro, said he was having fun with his friends at a joint, a few metres away from the scene, when the accident occurred.
He explained that the customs officers had chased the bus driver, forcing him to drive against traffic.
He said, “On getting to the scene of the crash, the vehicles were already on fire and many passengers were trapped inside. I saw three persons who managed to get out before the fire started.
“One of them told us that the bus driver wanted to escape from customs officers, but they chased him with their patrol van. I learnt that he drove against the traffic when the officers almost caught up with him. About 10 burnt bodies were evacuated from the two vehicles, while several others were injured.”
A woman, Mrs. Riskat Adeleye, said, “I could not close my eyes until daybreak today (Tuesday). All of us at the scene on Monday were very confused. We tried our best to put out the fire, but it raged on. I wish I don’t remember it again.”
The spokesperson for the Nigeria Customs Service at the Seme Command, Taopeng Selchang, denied that customs officers chased the bus.
He said instead, some suspected robbers in a Toyota Prado, chased the bus, which led to the accident.
He said, “It is not true that any officer pursued the bus. It was a Toyota Prado that chased the vehicle and people in the jeep were shooting. Our men had to run to safety.
“It is normal in any border area that if anything evil happens, people will apportion the blame to customs. If any of the eyewitnesses have pictorial evidence that we caused the accident, let them come forward with them.”
The Unit Commander, FRSC, Badagry, Assistant Corps Commander Fatai Bakare, said the accident happened around 8.15pm.
Bakare said the agency quickly mobilised firefighters to the scene, adding that he heard the groan of burning trapped passengers.
He said, “The crash occurred at about 8.15pm. When we got to the scene, we discovered that it involved two vehicles – a commercial bus loaded with passengers and a car. They had a head-on collision which resulted in fire.
“The fire was so much that there was nothing we could do than to call the firefighters. I heard some of the trapped victims crying and calling for help as the fire consumed them.
“Before the fire was put out, we were able to rescue 12 of them, who are on the danger list at the Badagry General Hospital. After the firefighters finished their operation, we evacuated 10 bodies that were burnt beyond recognition.”
The spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Dolapo Badmos, said the police took the corpses to the morgue, adding that preliminary investigations showed that there were jerrycans of fuel in the car.
Badmos, a Superintendent of Police, said the command had a record of 10 deaths and seven injuries.
She said, “The two vehicles caught fire and were burnt beyond recognition. Ten passengers were burnt while seven others, who suffered severe burns, were rescued and rushed to the general hospital for treatment. We removed the corpses and deposited them at the hospital’s morgue for autopsy; investigations are ongoing.”
The Director of the Lagos State Fire Service, Rasak Fadipe, said the Badagry Fire Station was alerted to the incident.
He said the agency could not tell the number of those killed in the inferno, saying after the operation, it handed over to officials of the FRSC.
A top medical officer at the Badagry General Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said nine corpses were brought into the hospital.
He said, “Ten victims sustained serious injuries. One of them died today; five signed voluntary discharge against medical advice; three are with us, whom we are planning to refer to the the Gbagada General Hospital for treatment, while one has been discharged.
“Nine bodies were brought in dead, among which were eight adults and one child. The child should be less than one year. We have transferred the corpses to the Mainland General Hospital.”
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Source: Punch News