The spot on the Hima-Rugendabara road in western Uganda where multiple-vehicle collision claimed 10 lives on Tuesday night was a black spot known to government authorities, but lacked warning signs for motorists.
In addition, the highway section is under reconstruction and was piled with mounds of gravel which rendered only one side of the road motorable, police and Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) confirmed yesterday.
Mr Mathius Okwir, the Rwenzori East Regional traffic officer, said 33 people injured in the night accident that involved five vehicles were taken for treatment at Kilembe Hospital and St Paul’s Health Centre III.
“The cause of the accident was the heaps of murrum on the road and no safety signs for motorists,” Mr Okwir said in reference to materials poured on the road by China Wu Yi, the contractor building the Fort Portal-Kasese road.
Mr Moris Kikwamimbi, a survivor, said they were about 25 in a Canter truck travelling from Bundibugyo Buhundu Twanzene village to Maliba Kemihoko for a burial when a speeding Premio, slammed into their vehicle near a Weighbridge after Rugendabara trading centre.
Questions also lingered about the time the accident happened and when help reached the victims, with Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) and police giving conflicting accounts.
URCS spokesperson Irene Nakasita, citing accounts offered by their first responders, tweeted yesterday that up to 32 people had died in the accident.
Police, who reportedly arrived at the scene two hours later, said only 10 people perished and Red Cross volunteers may have mistaken individuals who had fainted for fatalities.
However, the police’s official list of the deceased persons does not include the name of Bwambale Zakaria whose body was taken for burial in Bumadu, Bundibugyo District.
When asked to clarify the anomaly, traffic officer Okwir said he was busy, and had not given a feedback by press time at 10pm as promised.
We were unable to speak to Maj Charles Nzei, a UPDF officer, who was the most senior first security officer on the ground. Varying accounts suggest the accidents happened between 9pm and 11pm.
Residents near the road reported hearing a loud bang followed by screams and mayhem in the dark.
The impact of the crash yanked some passenger off the road while others lay dead trapped in the vehicles’ wreckages.
Among then was Zakaliya Bwambale whom Mr Bradford Nguru described as his “fondest” uncle who had just celebrated 50 years of his marriage just 20 days ago.
At the hospitals in Kasese, crestfallen relatives filed in droves and onlookers prowled as health workers paced the facilities to save some of the critically injured.
Tears rolled down the cheeks of many grieving relatives who said nothing, except sobbing uncontrollably.
Some women wailed loudly while a number clasped their hands across their chests as they shook their heads in disbelief.
Some men stood in small groups, speaking in hushed tonnes.
Back at the accident scene, broken glasses strewn the road, piece of human flesh and blood stains were visible on the wreckages and ground several hours after the crashes.
Ms Safina Bukundika, a resident of Kasese Kisagazi, said her relatives died while heading for the funeral of a woman in Maliba Sub-county, Kasese District.
Mr Jockim Aluku, the chairman of Kasese Municipal Health Hospital, said that nine bodies were delivered to the facility’s morgue and relatives claimed one promptly.
The Canter truck driver reportedly died on the spot while other survivors fled in confusion. The passengers who died were from Bugiri, Luweero, Mpigi, Kesese and Bundibugyo.
Witnesses said after the first collision between the Premio car and Canter truck, another truck reportedly belonging to Umeme, the power distributor, stopped to help evacuate the injured.
However, moments later, two speeding Hima Cement trucks slammed into the three vehicles at the site, crushing first responders and bystanders, Kitswamba Sub-county council speaker Twamwazire Beneziri, who was at the scene, said.