There was protest by residents yesterday at Ojodu, a Lagos surburb, as an articulated truck crushed pupils of Babs Fafunwa Millennium Secondary School, who were returning home after school hours.
No fewer than 17 students were feared dead at the Grammar School Bus Stop, Ogunnusi Road, along Ogba-Ojodu/Berger axis, according to eye witness, who said the truck driver was trying to evade arrest by Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) and men of the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) from Berger Division, Ikeja.
The pupils wanted to cros the road when the truck rammed into them.
It was gathered that the brake of the truck failed during the hot chase by VIO and LASTMA officials.
Anxious parents stormed the scene, a stone throw from the Ogba/Ojodu road to inquire about the corpses and the injured victims.
Economic activities were paralysed as residents trooped out to protest the avoidable tragedy, blaming the notorious driver, VIO and LASTMA officers for the accident.
However, the Lagos Stae Police Command confirmed that the corpses of 10 pupils evacuated from the accident scene have been taken to the mortuary.
Other casualties are receiving treatment at the hospital, the police added.
The truck was set ablaze by the angry mob while the VIO vehicle was vandalised.
Also, the mob chased the driver to Ogba, where he was apprehended by the police.
There was gridlock and the traffic stretched towards Ogba axis as some protesters blocked a section of the road with tyres.
However, as at press time, the Area F Police Command, which could not confirm the number of casualties, confirmed that they have evacuated two corpses from the accident scene and taken to hospital.
The eyewitness said the incident occurred at 3.15pm and the pupils were returning home in groups.
He said: “The trailer was coming with speed from Berger area heading to Ogba. He was being chased by VIO and LASTMA officers. So, he hit the students, who were about to cross the road. The children were shouting for help, but the trailer driver ran away instead of stopping. The children were many, about 15 children. One policeman came and he said there were 15 children. Many of them were injured.
“The truck driver was trying to escape. Then, a car double-crossed him. So, he came down and people started chasing him. When they caught him, he brought out a knife to attack the crowd. So, someone hit him from behind, took the knife from him and stabbed him. So, he was now taken to the Grammar School Police Station. The students were angry and started throwing stones, attacking and vandalising any truck in sight.
Another eyewitness said: “The truck, after hitting the students, also hit two pedestrians around Aguda area in Ogba just before the Excellence Hotel. The victims were immediately rushed to the Ifako General Hospital.”
At the God’s Apple Hospital, four casualties were brought in critical condition and moved to a specialist hospital for scanning.
A nurse at the hospital said: “Three boys were brought to us. Two sustained head injuries of different degrees and the third one had a musculoskeletal injury. We didn’t transfer them. They are just going for a brain scan and the one with musculoskeletal injury is going for an X-ray scan at the Head Point Diagnostic Center. They are still coming back.”
At the Royan Hospital, Ojodu, four pupils were admitted. But, according to the hospital, they were later moved to the Ifako General Hospital by the police.
Casualties were also taken to St Timothy Hospital, Royan Hospital, Solid Rock Hospital, all in Ojodu.
Hoodlums joined students, who were on rampage, looting shops within the area.
Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu said: “We are on top of the situation. Adequate policemen are on ground to maintain law and order. The situation is being professionally handled. The driver has been arrested. Investigation into the accident is ongoing”.
Ojodu council boss, Olusegun Odunmbaku, who visited five hospitals, called for calm.
He said the local government will foot the medical bills. Odunmbaku also made arrangements for ambulances to transfer some victims to the Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital.
In a statement by his media aide, Jumu’ah Abiodun, he commiserated with the families of the victims.
Odunmbaku, who also addressed the parents, said: “My heart is broken for the families and friends of students who lost their lives in this horrible accident. This is a devastating tragedy, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the horrible accident that killed Grammar School students,” Odunmbaku said.
“My heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families, May God grant them the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss,” he added.
The council boss urged sympathisers to respect the families privacy. “There’s need for calm in this trying time, we must all at the same time respect the privacy of the bereaved families.”
Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) boss Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu said: “The agency received a distress call at 2.56pm about a truck accident at Ogunnusi Road, Grammar School Bus Stop, Ojodu-Berger.
“However, information gathered from LASTMA and NPF officers at the scene revealed that an unidentified truck lost control and rammed into pupils returning from school.
The Lagos sector command of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) denied the involvement of its officials in the incident.
Olabisi Sonusi of the FRSC Lagos Command, in a statement, said 14 persons involved in the incident were taken to the hospital.
He said: “An articulated truck was said to have lost control at Grammar School Bus stop along Ogunnusi Road, Lagos today Tuesday 7th December, 2021, which caused the death of unverified number of students and leaving many injured.”
Sonusi added: “Men of the FRSC were called upon by passerby to help intervene after the crash had happened. About seven (7) of the victims were rescued and immediately taken to Lagos State Emergency Centre Ojota by FRSC personnel while another road user helped in carrying about seven (7) also to the same emergency centre.
“The general public should disregard the disgruntled information been circulated by some unscrupulous element that FRSC men caused the crash. We want to place on record that our men were not in any way involved in the cause of the crash as patrol activities was not ongoing along that axis as at the time of the crash.”
According to the statement, Olusegun Ogungbemide, sector commander, commiserated with the families of the deceased.