Details emerged yesterday about how a reckless car driver triggered the fire incident that claimed the lives of three people, three cars and more than 10 motorcycles in Ibadan during the week.
Also destroyed in the fire incident were kiosks belonging to a motorcycle seller and a lottery operator. The havoc wreaked by the incident according to eyewitnesses would have been worse but for the quick removal of vehicles in a nearby car wash. The operator was said to have quickly driven the vehicles to safety when the fuel started spilling from the tanker.
The 33,000litres fuel laden tanker going to Ibadan from Lagos had while trying to avoid colluding with a taxi on the Sawmill Bridge along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, fell and spilled its content on the highway.
The two sides of the Onipepeye Road to and from Agodi Gate had the residents raising the alarm and warning drivers not to try driving on the fuel-flooded road at the time.
But a driver, refused to comply with the advice and hastily tried to speed past the scene when the exhaust of his car had a contact with a stone while trying to beat a pothole.
The contact led to a spark owhich eventually started spreading from one part of the road to another.
Eyewitnesses who spoke with The Nation faulted the defiant driver whose stubbornness led to the spark that triggered the fire. He was also one of the casualties of the incident.
The owner of a lottery/game betting shop adjacent road, Kayode Rabiu, said: “We just heard that a tanker had fallen on the bridge and by the time we looked through, we saw that fuel had been pouring down the bridge from a water channel. The fuel was everywhere on the road. Some car owners and drivers were alerted and before you know it, the road was deserted within a twinkle of an eye.
“Unfortunately, some stubborn drivers failed to heed the warning to avoid the affected area. Some of them kept taking a terrible risk by speeding past the place. While we were trying to stop the drivers from passing through the place, one came from no where trying to speed past hastily. Unfortunately, he couldn’t beat a pothole in front of him and that was how he hit a stone and immediately there was a spark that ignited the fire.
“Some other cars who were also trying to beat it trying to access the bridge also fell victim. The car at the time was been occupied by a man, a woman and a child.
“Immediately the fire started, the car occupants were confused. The driver in particular lost idea about where to maneuver the car to. The man hastily got down with fire on his body and took to his heels. By the time the woman came out of the car, maybe due to the fumes of the smoke that blindfolded her, she didn’t know the direction to run, but we just saw that she fell and that was where she was burnt beyond recognition. There was also another man from another car who came out of his car and while trying to escape was caught by the fire.
“When I saw that the fuel was gushing out, I immediately packed my machines and equipment and ran far away from the scene but the fire still spread to my kiosk burning it partly. We were still nearly when we heard the explosion and everyone took to their heels and that was how we were spared.
“For me, with less than N10,000 I will fix my shops and restore it, but other people lost everything in their shops, especially those by the car wash. Three motorcycles were burnt and three cars while two people died.”
In his own account, Abiola Omowale, a mechanic whose workshop was also nearby the scene, said he suspected that the victims were new on the route and couldn’t have imagined what they saw.
“When it happened, the fuel was gushing out from the hole which was channeled from the top of the bridge and it spread on the road. Many road users and business owners were already closing their shops and packing up but a driver who chose to be smart was the one that ignited the fire.
“We suspected that the affected cars that got burnt were probably going to Lagos, a father, mother and a child were all affected. The man rushed back for the child and they were almost escaping but while the wife was trying the escape too, the fumes had choked her. Instead of running to safety, she ran into the fire.
“The affected bikes included new ones on display, about three that were packed for repair and the back cover of a tricycle. The fire also affected him in the hand and part of his body.”
A shop owner, Yussuf Alli, who sells motorcycle had his shop burnt down completely.
He said “I had three motorcycles including Jincheng, Boxer, Bajaj, in the shop. All of them including a lot of spare parts were completely burnt.
“The trailer had fallen for about an hour with the content spilling. We traced where it was flowing to, only to see that it was going underground. But unknown to us, the underground led to another area.
“Immediately we saw that it was coming out here, we quickly mobilized ourselves and started to stop all vehicles from plying the route. Some drivers complied while some others didn’t. And it was one of those that didn’t listen to us that caused the fire and that was how the fire spread and affected our shop. The accident began right in front of my shop. I lost close to a million worth of goods in the fire incident and I am back to zero level.”
Also speaking, Micheal Babalola, one of the operators of the car wash down the bridge said: “We were washing some cars when the trailer fell. We had about three cars at our stand but we were able to quickly move them away to safety before the explosion.
“When we heard the explosion initially, we thought it was gunshot but after we summoned courage to go and take a look, we saw that it was a tanker that had fallen.
“The car that ignited the fire was proving very stubborn when they stopped him from going on the affected road but suddenly we just saw fire from his exhaust. The only thing we lost were two big rugs spread on the ground after we had washed them and left them to dry here. Our pumping machine also got spoilt.
“While we were busy trying to move customers’ cars in our ram to safety, I just observed that some people started running towards our direction to pick our buckets and plastics and running upward the bridge. I thought they wanted to go and scoop oil. But we were able to rescue all our machines and cars in our custody.”
The NURTW chairman for the okada section, Onipepeye Unit, Mr Rahmon Ayankunle said: “I was on duty when I heard the explosion on the bridge and when we tried to find out the cause, I learnt that the Nissan Micra taxi was the one who crossed the path of the trailer but while he (trailer) tried avoiding hitting the taxi so as not to kill the people in the car, the trailer fell on the middle of the road and its content started spilling.
“Also, we heard that immediately the driver saw that his truck had started spilling fuel, he went around to ask people for the fire service station around to report but we don’t know how true that was.
“When I went to see the path the fuel was taking, I noticed that it was going down and going to burst out here beside us and I told people and we raised alarm and everybody started packing their wares.
“The other two cars that were burnt seemed to be unfamiliar with the road. The car that the exhaust pipe triggered the fire was also trying to beat the others to access the road before hitting a stationed car by the side of the road.
“My advise for the government is that, they should help us channel the water path underground to the canal nearby. On a good day, that is how water flood this place anytime it rains and road users are often subjected to serious hardship in plying the route under the Sawmill Bridge.”