Almost a month after family members of victims of an accident took to social media demanding details of what happened to their loved ones, the transportation company involved has finally responded.
The accident involved a 16-passenger minibus owned by Peace Mass Transit (PMT) and another vehicle. It happened in Itobe, Kogi State along the Abuja-Lokoja road.
The accident occurred on August 14, killing 14 out of the 16 passengers in the bus with two others incurring serious injuries.
Family members of the victims took to social media accusing PMT of burying the deceased in the bush without their consent in order to cover up its negligence.
In a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, PMT said the accident occurred after a Peugeot 406 saloon car, which was carrying a gas cylinder, ran into its minibus head-on while trying to overtake another vehicle.
It explained that the impact of the collision caused the gas cylinder to explode, burning most of the occupants of the two vehicles alive.
The company, however, said that contrary to claims by the families of the deceased, the decision to bury the dead passengers was taken by first responders at the scene of the accident.
“Our sincere condolences go to the families of all the deceased passengers who had kept the faith with their preferred road transport service provider-PMT, but fell to the cold hands of death in those circumstances we view as most unfortunate,” the statement signed by the company’s management read.
“It was also regrettable that national emergency first responders at the scene of the accident and natives of the area, apparently acting in good conscience, made the decision to honourably clear the thoroughfare, and inter the remains of deceased victims together, nearby.
“We have since been told on enquiry that the decision on internment was a collective one among the first responders, as a result of the state of the remains as the occupants were all burnt together so the bodies could not be separated in anyway.
“These same compatriots had also risked their lives to defy raging gas fire to pull out some passengers alive, moving them to hospital for treatment. The life of every mortal is indeed in the hands of God, and at PMT, no safety consideration or concern is postponed for action for even a second, and the regulatory agencies can bear us out.
“The Itobe episode is the first of its kind in our history, hence, staff at all levels remain in deep, awful shock, even up till this moment,” it added.
While stating that it regretted the way the incident was handled and that it would have been handled differently if the conditions were different, the company said it has reached out to the relations of most of the deceased and was still trying to contact others.
“Given a different scenario and circumstances, on another day, certain impulsive actions allowed on that occasion may have been handled differently, with more regard to peculiar sensibilities. Cultural and religious belief of those around also played a role here, but then, the noble motive and selfless efforts of these patriots that were on ground, could be put in the proper perspective, and appreciated.”
“We mourn our cherished passengers who were affected to no end, and send our heartfelt condolences to bereaved families. Your loss is our loss! We place high premium on the welfare and safety of our dear Passengers. Clearly, we are in this situation, together. Please, be comforted.”
“We have kept in touch with majority of bereaved families and in frantic, committed efforts to reach the others whose contact details are not easily discernible from the travel manifest.”
“It is clearly a tough period for us at PMT, as we pledge our unwavering commitment to the safety of our travelling public who are the only reason we are in this ever challenging business called transportation.”
Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to speak to the police and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) were fruitless. Spokesperson of the Kogi Sector Command of the FRSC, Oba Olobayo, when reached for comment said an sms should be sent to him. He however did not reply to the enquiry when sent.
Similarly, spokesperson of the Kogi State Police Command, William Ovie, said he was not aware of the incident. He then promised to find out from the District Police Officer in Itobe. He, however, did not return subsequent calls made to his mobile phone.