To understand the infamous trail of tears is not enough to know about the gamut of emotions that a senior sister and aged parents feel, grieving the tragic death of their loved ones. The intense heart-breaking and anguish signpost a deep connection that has been severed.
Ada Idoko, the first daughter of the family of nine, called Aunty Ada, had joyfully and anxiously awaited the arrival of her siblings, without an inkling of what was to befall them.
Seven persons, including the four siblings, died in an auto crash around 5.40 pm on the 10th of August, 2014 on their way from Ugbokolo, Benue State to Abuja.
Benjamin Idoko, 23, the second son and fourth child of the family, went on official duty to Benue State and thought it fit to bring back his three of his junior ones, Adda, 21; Ene, a female, 18, and their last born, 12, all of whom had gone to the village on holiday to spend time with their parents, Mr and Mrs Idoko. Little did they know they were bidding their parents final goodbye when they were leaving Benue. The accident that claimed their lives consumed three others- a tanker driver, his assistant and a yet to be identified friend of the Idokos. The accident involved the Idokos vehicle and a fuel laden tanker. Both vehicles burst into flames on impact. No survivors.
Aunty Ada, who got married early this year to Mr Christian Ujah but yet to change her maiden name as a civil servant, could not stop weeping as she kept echoing, ”I just can’t describe it. It’s unbelievable. It’s like it’s a dream that I want to wake up from”.
Efforts by family members, friends and neighbours to calm her did not yield result from the Sunday she was informed up till Tuesday.
Ada’s husband, Mr Christian Ujah, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in an interview, said they were not at the accident scene when it occured and could thereby not tell if overtaking caused the crash and who was right or wrong, but admitted that an eyewitness who gave an account of how it happened confirmed that it was due to overtaking but did not state who did what.
“We got to the scene of the accident after we received a call from the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC about 7o’ clock in the night on Sunday. The fire was still burning and the tanker was completely on the Hilux vehicle my deceased in-laws were travelling in, hence l could not ascertain whether the crash was caused by wrong overtaking or not,” Ujah said.
In fact the FRSC invited us to their office the following day, Monday, and led us to Kwali General Hospital where the charred remains of my wife’s siblings and others were deposited. It was a gory site to behold. They were burnt beyond recognition”
He said the parents-in-law, whose ages range between 60 and 65, had been told of what happened while he added that they were constantly in touch with them to make sure they don’t over react.
On what bodies they were taking home to Ugbokolo for burial since they could not recognise the charred bodies of the quartet, he explained that Benue tradition allows the burial of the symbols of the dead hence they would pack sand from the scene of accident to represent their bodies for burial.
“We all have our traditions and the tradition from where we come from allows for a symbol for which the elders and family members have agreed to, to pack sand or gravel, as the case may be, from the accident scene home and bury.”
The accident scene
The charred remains, Ujah said, the family would evacuate them from the mortuary
A family friend of the deceased persons, who also comes from the same village with them, Ene Ejembi, recalled that Benjamin Idoko called her when they were just about leaving Ugbokolo for Abuja that Sunday morning because, according to her, he was supposed to pick up some things for her from her own mother’s compound but later called again to say that they couldn’t make it to her mother’s house as they had already left the village.
Ene, who showed a picture of herself and Benjamin which she said they both snapped at a garden a week before the accident, said Benjamin specifically pleaded with her to have the picture printed out which she did not knowing that it was their last time together.
Another family friend, Mrs Ejima Reuben, told Sunday Vanguard that the three deceased boys were living together in one apartment in Dutse, Abuja while Ene, the only female that died with her brothers, lived with Ada in Kubwa.
The FRSC Unit Commander in Yangoji, a village close to scene of the accident in Abuja, Mr Austin Chukwudi Okeke, told Sunday Vanguard that the tanker was on speed when the Idokos vehicle overtook it before it dawned on Benjamin Idoko, who was driving, that it wasn’t safe to overtake, and tried to return to his lane; it was in the process that he brushed the tanker.
“The Toyota Hilux and the tanker filled with PMS were on the same lane from Abaji going to Abuja when the Hilux overtook the tanker but it couldn’t do that totally and it was going back to its lane when it hit the tanker and the tanker lost balance in the process, somersaulted and burst into flame almost immediately thereby killing the five occupants in the Hilux and the two occupants in the tanker”. Vanguard