Tragedy struck in Benin City, Edo State capital in the early hours of Friday following an outbreak of fire in an accident involving a petroleum tanker conveying diesel and a Mercedes Benz station wagon. The accident which occurred opposite the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Ugbowo was said to have claimed a life and left two persons injured. The victims were immediately rushed to the nearby UBTH.
Both vehicles were burnt beyond recognition while six others parked by the road-side were also damaged as a result of the intense heat from the raging fire. The inferno was however said to have been contained through the combined efforts of the fire services from the UBTH, University of Benin, and the Nigerian Army.
The magazine gathered from an eye-witness that the petroleum tanker burst into flames when it swerved and lost control, hitting the median in an attempt to avoid a direct collision with the Mercedes Benz station wagon loaded with bags of rice.
The incident caused a severe gridlock on the ever-busy Benin-Lagos expressway with both in-coming and out-going commuters caught in the heavy traffic. Transportation fares immediately skyrocketed as transporters took advantage of the desperation of commuters to get to their places of work, schools, and businesses.
The early morning tragedy attracted the attention of the state government with the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu visiting the scene for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and how the government could intervene.
Shaibu cautioned drivers on the need to always abide by traffic rules. “First is to get the truck out of this place and check the level of damage this accident has caused and from there we follow it up as a government. I think the lesson from this is for us all who are drivers to abide by the road regulations.”
According to the deputy governor, “from what I have been told here, somebody was driving against traffic and that is what has resulted to this accident. We should maintain our lanes and the immediate thing we have to do here now is to first evacuate and check the extent of damage and the government will take it from there”.
He called for more public enlightenment for road users to reduce the level of carnage on our roads. He expressed optimism that the rail programme of the federal government when completed, would help decongest our roads and reduce the number of haulage trucks on the roads.
Egor Local Government Council chairperson, Eghe Ogbemudia who claimed to have been on ground since 5.30 am appreciated the roles of the fire services which responded promptly to the distress calls.
The Assistant Corps Commandant, Tollgate, of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Sabina Musa confirmed the cause of the accident. “The car was trying to enter the expressway through the service lane. Now, the tanker was trying to avoid a head-on collision and he tried to swerve and lost control and it fell. And since it was carrying diesel, it just went into flame. He believed the accident was avoidable, blaming both drivers.
Confirming the three casualties, Musa said they were all male adults. She said the dead victim was trapped inside the tanker vehicle. Musa called for training and retraining of drivers.