Lagos State Emergency Management Agency and the Nigerian Railway Corporation have blamed the driver of a Lagos State Government staff bus for a fatal train accident which killed six people and injured 96 in the PWD area of the state on Thursday.
Tragedy struck in Lagos a few minutes before 8am on Thursday when a passenger train collided with a fully-loaded staff bus belonging to the Lagos State Government at the PWD rail crossing, off the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
Giving reasons for the deadly crash, the Permanent Secretary of LASEMA, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, told journalists that the bus driver ignored signals from the NRC officials as he was in a hurry to cross the rail.
Also, the NRC, in a statement by its Deputy Director Public Relations, Yakub Mahmood, said the bus failed to obey the instruction of the corporation officials as he overtook other vehicles waiting for the train to pass.
The Federal Government has ordered an investigation into the accident.
The ill-fated bus with registration no 04A- 48LA was navigating its way to connect the Government Residential Area, Ikeja en route to the state secretariat, Alausa, when it collided with the train at the PWD rail crossing.
The bus was said to be coming from Isolo while the train was heading to Ido from Ijoko, Ogun State.
According to eyewitnesses, the train dragged the bus on its rail for about 100 metres from PWD to Sogunle before getting stuck.
Some panic-stricken passengers of the bus, especially those close to the exit doors, reportedly made frantic efforts to jump off the bus being dragged by the train.
By the time the train and the bus finally stopped on the rail, the bus passengers fell upon one another in their attempts to find their way out of the trapped vehicle.
Two passengers were said to have died on the spot while others sustained various degrees of injuries.
Rescue workers who were mobilised to the scene evacuated the victims and rushed them to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.
The Chief Mechanical Engineer and Lagos District Manager, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Augustine Arisa, confirmed to The PUNCH that the train pushed the bus for about 100 metres before stopping.
This, according to him, is because of the high speed of the train.
Arisa disclosed this in an interview with one of our correspondents at the scene of the accident.
He noted that at 7.50 am, he received a distress call from one of the drivers of the NRC, alerting him of a train-bus accident at the Shogunle Level Crossing.
Arisa said, “At 7.50 am, we got a distress call from our driver that there has been an accident at the Shogunle Level Crossing.
“On further interaction, we found out that the level-crossing keeper was there. The LCK is the man with the red and yellow flags at all times at the level crossing.
“If he gives you the red flag, you are to stop. If he gives you the yellow flag, you are to move with caution. If he gives the yellow flag to the train driver, that means he has asked the train driver to start coming.
“With that, the train driver has the confidence that the rail is clear for him to drive through. This simply means all buses should wait and not move till the yellow flag is given to them. With that, the train driver has the confidence that the rail is clear for him to drive through.”
Arisa, narrating how the accident occurred, said the BRT driver veered off from where other buses were waiting and entered the track, ignoring the red flag by the level crossing keeper.
“Before the train driver could stop, he had already hit the vehicle and pushed it to a distance of about 100 metres before finally stopping. This is because the train cannot stop immediately,” he added.
He further emphasized that no one should be on the rail track for whatever reason.
According to him, anyone seen on the rail track is an intruder and has no business being there.
He added, “I need to emphasise this and drum it to the ears of people that a moving train cannot stop immediately.
“So, no one has the right to stay on the track. You don’t have any business being on the track. For you being on the track, you are an intruder.
“If anyone dies on the track, your family members will have to pay a railway fine before retrieving your corpse, because no one is supposed to be there in the first place. When the flag bearers tell you to stop, please, stop.”