By Mumini AbdulKareem
Tragedy struck on Saturday when three persons of the same family lost their lives when the car they were travelling in plunged into a river following the sudden collapse of a bridge during a downpour in Ilorin.
The incident occurred around past 10:00pm on Saturday along Oko-Erin road in Ilorin metropolis following the heavy rain that lasted over four hours.
It was gathered that there were five people in the car, a Toyota Avensis with registration number LRN-978FE when the accident occurred.
Two out of the five occupants in the vehicle were said to have escaped without any injury and rescue efforts were still on by the combined team of the Kwara State Road Maintenance Agency (KWARTMA), Police and the State Fire Service when National Pilot visited the scene on Sunday.
Although the car was removed from the ditch around past 1pm, the bodies of two of the victims were still missing.
The Head of Department, Media and Publicity of the State Fire Service, Hassan Akeem Adekunle who spoke with National Pilot at the scene of the incident, confirmed that three persons of the same family’ lost their lives in the accident.
He gave the name of the owner and driver of the vehicle whose dead body was recovered as Mr Okechukwu Nwabor and Chuben and Chibikie Nwabor as the two missing persons.
He added that Peter and Chibom Nwabor, the other two occupants of the vehicle however escaped unhurt.
Narrating the incident, the Adekunle said “We were summoned around 10:30pm on Saturday to come to the scene. What happened was that there were five occupants inside the vehicle who are residents of the area and they were driving home from their place of business.
“When they got to the bridge, the volume and flow of water was high and they stopped. The driver and owner of the car whose body was recovered dead highlighted from the vehicle to ascertain the level of the water and decide how to drive past it. Meanwhile, two of his brothers also came out through the other doors leaving the last two inside. But the bridge suddenly collapsed and he (driver) and the vehicle with the two remaining occupants inside fell into the ditch.
“We have recovered the body of driver (Okechukwu Nwabor) but still searching for the remaining two occupants. We have extended our search from this axis of the river in Oko-Erin to Unity junction and back to be sure that they are no longer here before we move to Sabo-Oke axis”, he added.
When contacted on phone last night, Adekunle revealed that the two bodies have not been recovered after 48 hours search. He added that the service will continue the search today (Monday).
Also speaking during the rescue operation, the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Owoade Jonathan blamed the community for not reporting the defect noticed on the bridge in time.
“This bridge didn’t suddenly collapse. It must have shown some signs of defect before now but nobody reported anything. So if you see something, then say something. Failure of prompt attention of the people of the community to report this might have caused this. If you look at it, it is not the bridge that collapsed but the sand that was used to fill the ditch and this didn’t just happened now”, he added.
The state Commissioner for Works and Transport, Rotimi Iliasu, while speaking after he visited the scene described the incident as unfortunate and commiserated with the family of the dead.
Iliasu attributed the bridge’s collapse to constant dumping of refuse under the bridge which he said impeded the free flow of water. He called on residents of the state to desist from dumping refuse under bridges and waterways to avert disasters.
”Consequently, the Oko-Erin road has been blocked while some personnel from the state traffic management authority are at the scene of the collapsed bridge to monitor diversion of traffic,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Kwara State Government has commiserated with the families of those who were feared dead or missing following the collapse of the embankment of Oko-Erin bridge in Ilorin, the state capital.
The Deputy Governor, Mr Kayode Alabi, while inspecting the affected bridge in company of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Adisa Logun on Sunday described the accident as disheartening, tragic and traumatic.
He urged the people to desist from dumping refuse in drainages or building on waterways to prevent flooding or erosion of bridges.
He sympathised with the affected families and urged the rescue team to double efforts to locate the missing persons.
Speaking earlier, Deputy Director, Kwara State Fire Service, Mr Falade John, said the accident happened on Saturday evening when the embankment gave way and resulted in a Toyota Avensis car with five passengers on board falling off the bridge.
John said two people survived from the accident with bruises, while the service recovered a body on Coca Cola road.
Secretary of the Kwara State Emergency Management Agency, Mrs Motunrayo Adaran, assured Mr Alabi that the agency would spare no effort to find the missing persons.
The road has now been cordoned off for safety reasons, with residents urged to stay away from the scene according to a statement by Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor, Modupe Joel.