Catholic Diocese of Awgu, in Enugu State, has debunked media reports that a recent auto crash involving a Lowbed truck and a Mercedes Benz 608 school bus, had claimed 21 lives, describing such reports as fake news.
The church, which owns the affected school, Presentation Nursery and Primary School, Awgu, in Awgu Council Area of Enugu State, told The Oracle Today that cumulatively, 11 and not 21 casualties was recorded in the accident, while eight persons were injured.
The tragic auto crash had occurred when a Lowbed truck belonging to a construction firm had reportedly, rammed into the school bus while conveying home 51 pupils of the catholic school, which is managed by the Daughters of Divine Love (DDL) Congregation.
The incident was said to have taken place at Nkwo Junction, along Awgu-Mgbowo Aki-Na-Ukwa axis, along the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.
Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Enugu, Ogbonna Kalu, who had, reportedly, confirmed the occurrence to journalists had stated that 21 persons were certified dead, including pupils and bystanders, adding that the bus was carrying over 50 passengers when the tragedy struck.
“As I speak to you, 21 persons have been confirmed death and more than 50 persons were in the school bus.
“Also of note is that not all the dead were school children; those working on the roadside were part of the casualties,” the FRSC boss had posited, adding that the accident was caused by “mechanical problem by the truck”.
However, in an interview with our correspondent, the Director of Communication, Catholic Diocese of Awgu, Fr Ogbonna Okcchukwu, refuted FRSC’s position and wondered how they came about their figures.
He said: “A lot of fake news are flying around about the incident and we want to put the records straight.
“The correct information is that we lost seven pupils from the accident; six died on the spot and another pupil died afterwards.
“The latest review as at this moment, October 30, 2020, is a total of 11 casualties, altogether, including eight pupils, the school bus driver, a teacher and two motorcycle mechanics that had a shed within the scene of the incident. Nine persons are in the hospital receiving treatment.
“Those hospitalized include a teacher, who was with the children in the bus, and eight pupils.
“Any other information outside this, as it stands now, is fake news and should be disregarded by the public,” the diocesan spokesperson fired.
“We wonder where and how they got all the figures being bandied in the media,” Fr Okechukwu added.
Giving further breakdown, the priest pointed out that only three staff of the school were in the ill-fated bus with the children, including the driver and two teachers.
He further clarified: “One of the teachers died instantly, the bus driver gave up the ghost at the hospital later that evening, while the second teacher is among those currently receiving treatment at the hospital.
“The two roadside mechanics include the shop owner and his apprentice. They were caught up in the accident and they died while being rushed to the hospital; and they are among the 11 deaths recorded.
“Again, for avoidance of doubts, the Catholic Diocese of Awgu hereby, states categorically, that the total casualty figure that resulted from the said accident is 11 and not 21, and nine persons, including eight pupils and a teacher, are currently at the hospital receiving treatment.
“So, the school lost nine persons – seven pupils and two staff,” the priest insisted.
Narrating how the incident occurred, Fr Okechukwu said that the school bus was on the second run after school closed on the ill-fated day.
He pointed out that the bus was not fully loaded at the time of the incident and that it was not carrying 50 people, as was reported in a section of the media. According to him, some pupils had already alighted at the NYSC, Cathedral, Orie Awgu and other pick up points before the incident occurred.
“The bus stopped at Nkwo junction, a T-junction, along Awgu-Mgbowo Aki Na Ukwa axis, for some pupils to alight. That was when the truck busted from the opposite side of the junction and rammed into the bus and dragged it into the ditch, and the truck driver immediately ran to the Awgu police station to report himself.
He added that the bishop of the Awgu Catholic Diocese, owners of the affected school, Most Rev Dr John Okoye, and the entire faithful were devastated about the incident.
“The bishop is weighed down by the development; has been visiting the affected families to commiserate with them and pray for them.
“It is a tragedy, a very painful occurrence and the whole diocese is currently mourning.
“These are mostly innocent children, promising primary school pupils that do not know anything, and it is painful that they met their death in such horrific manner,” the priest lamented.
He appreciated those that had raced to the scene to help out and assist in rushing the injured to the hospital, pointing out that without such quick intervention helped to reduce the number of casualties.