Mother, child, three others die in Choba River

| February 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

FIVE people, among them a mother and her child who were in a Toyota Camry, heading towards Emohua Local Council of Rivers State, have died after their vehicle veered off the Choba Bridge, near University of Port Harcourt and plunged into the river.

The victims, who were coming from Choba in Obio/Akpor Local Council of the state, were said to have visited a family member, before the tragedy occurred at about 4.15 p.m. on Sunday.

Investigations showed that the guard rails on both sides of the bridge had been stolen or had rusted and fallen off, thereby exposing motorists and even pedestrians using the bridge for the first time, to danger.

A visit to the scene revealed that the bridge was narrow, considering its economic importance to the Niger Delta region and the nation at large.

The bridge is located at the popular East –West Road, which has remained a death trap, despite the fact that contract for the repairs of the road was awarded six years ago.

An eyewitness who spoke with The Guardian, Mr. Friday Udo, said the driver was on high speed but he lamented:  “The Choba Bridge poses a great danger as it is in a deplorable condition.”

Another sympathiser alleged that the driver must have been drunk and warned that it was dangerous to drink while driving.

In his reaction, an alumnus of University of Port Harcourt and Chief Medical Director of Oasis Specialist Hospital, Dr. Josiah Appolous, who plies the route often, blamed the Federal Government for the tragedy.

He said the importance of the bridge to the Nigerian economy was very obvious, noting that all heavy duty trucks carrying petroleum products from the South South states usually pass through the aged bridge, which has lost its rails, yet, government has not seen the need to expand and improve the conduit.

His words: “I feel so sad over the re-occurring tragedy on the Choba Bridge. The bridge is old and the rails are no more. Many vehicles on top speed are likely to veer off into the river because the rail, which is supposed to protect vehicles from falling, are no more”.

“ The bridge is narrow. It is not dualized and it cannot take two vehicles at a time. It is too sad that government has seen all these dangers and yet, closed its eyes. The bridge requires urgent and priority attention, as it is as important as the Third Mainland Bridge and the Niger Bridge,” he added.

The bridge, The Guardian learnt claims lives every year.

Two years ago, eight persons were reportedly killed when their vehicle plunged into the river.

Recounting the incident, Mr. James Galazy said: “Two years ago, eight young men lost their lives when their bus fell into the river.  Two of them were my relations. Their deaths were really unbearable then and I thought that government would have reconstructed the bridge immediately after that tragedy. It is a pity that up till now, nothing has happened”.

While describing the bridge as a death trap, he lamented the inability of the Federal Government to dualise the road and the bridge, which serves as a link to the region.

A sympathizer, who also plies the route often, disclosed that the bridge has been in a deplorable state for long time ago and wondered why the Federal Government should disregard such an important project.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the victims have been recovered with the help of the local divers and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ben Ugwuegbulam, has confirmed the incident, saying only three persons died while the driver of the vehicle escaped as he was able to swim.

He said: “ Everybody using the Choba Bridge needs to be very careful. You do not need to over-speed or attempt to overtake”.

The ugly situation caused serious traffic in the ever-busy East-West Road as motorists and other travellers were stranded.

The South South Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Mr. Emenike Umesi, also confirmed the incident, saying, “five persons died in the accident.”

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