Bauchi — More details have emerged over the ghastly road accident that claimed the lives of 20 travellers on the Bauchi-Maiduguri highway in Darazo Local Government Area of Bauchi State at the weekend.
No fewer than 80 animals also perished in the accident with most of the victims burnt to death beyond recognition.
Both the Public Relations Officer of the Bauchi State Police Command DSP Kamal Datti Abubakar and his Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) counterpart Rilwanu Mohammed confirmed the incident to Daily Trust.
Mohammed said he is aware of the incident but yet to get the full details.
However, the police spokesman Kamal said: "The incident happened late on Friday night around 10pm. It was a head-on collision between a J5 bus and an 18-seater Hummer bus.
"The J5 was coming from Potiskum, Yobe State, heading towards Bauchi. It was carrying goats while the Hummer bus was from Bauchi. They had a head-on collision which instantly started fire that burnt 20 people beyond recognition."
When asked about the the identity of the deceased persons, Kamal said he could not give that at the moment. He however said that "19 names were recognized by family members through the manifest in which they wrote their details at the motor park."
The police spokesman said a mass burial was held for the deceased on Saturday in the morning at Darazo town in Darazo Local Government Area of the state.
When contacted also, the Caretaker Chairman of Darazo LG, Garau Adamu, said the passengers came from different places and the accident occurred between Kari and Sade, even as he confirmed that he also attended the burial for the victims in Darazo.
Adamu added that he would meet with the officials of Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) after the public holidays in order to find the best way they can fill the potholes dotting the road to avoid future occurrence.
Eye witnesses said FERMA, which is rehabilitating the road, didn't fill the holes on the road which caused the accident.
In his account, a onetime Bauchi State Commissioner of Information Alhaji Umar Sade said "I was part of the people that attended the funeral prayer for the victims. Some of the victims were people that used to go to other parts of the country, engaging in trading, menial jobs or doing some petty businesses to earn a living, especially during dry season. They were travelling home for Sallah.
"The accident happened about a kilometre away from Sade town. They collided with another driver who was apparently on his way to the southern part of the country. When they came the driver of the J5 hit a pot hole that was dug by FERMA but yet to be filled. You know sometimes FERMA will dig a hole on the road, and instead of them to immediately come and fill the hole, it will take them days. The driver of the other car, which they call PUMA, could not also control his car."
He said "The passengers inside the bus cried for help and many people came to rescue them but couldn't do anything because we don't have fire-fighting vehicles in our area. Another challenge was that road safety's presence is minimal in our area, so we don't have the materials or working tools to save life. The victims were consumed by fire right in the presence of people who wanted to help but were handicapped. The district head of Sade, and other hamlet and village heads in the area were also at the scene but could not do much. It was really pathetic."
Umar said after they died, their remains were evacuated and given mass burial in the morning. "After investigation we realized that six of the passengers are from Sade and five people are from Lanzai village all in Darazo Local Government Area. Even the driver of the vehicle is from Sade."
The ex-commissioner said the incident threw the whole of Sade town into mourning on the eve of Sallah. We pray to Almighty Allah to forgive those who died and give their family the strength and the patience to bear the loss of their loved ones."