Monday, June 01, 2009

Horror smash leaves 17 dead

* 17 killed, over 40 injured                                    

 * Two PMVs collide near Bereina

* Many victims from Iokea and bodies, casualties at Port Moresby General Hospital


By YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI and PATRICK TALU in The National, Papua New Guinea’s leading daily newspaper


SEVENTEEN people were killed and more than 40 are fighting for their lives in hospital after one of PNG’s worst road accidents on the Hiritano Highway near Bereina in Central province on Saturday afternoon.

Two PMV trucks collided head-on in the horrific accident about 4pm, several kilometres toward Iokea village from the Bereina station turn-off.

Sixteen of the passengers and crew died on impact, while a young boy died on arrival at the Port Moresby General Hospital from severe internal injuries.

A nursing staff of Bereina Hospital, who helped transport the crash victims, told The National: “Planti lain dai na planti igat intenel injuri na lek bruk na han bruk” (Many people are dead and there are many with internal injuries and broken bones in their hands and legs).

Hiritano Highway Police Patrol unit officers told The National in Hisiu yesterday that the 13 passengers who died on impact were in the PMV truck travelling to Iokea from Port Moresby, while three died in the truck heading toward the city. Both trucks were carrying at least 28 passengers each. The exact number of passengers could not be confirmed.

One of the women killed instantly was named as Fotuna Akarai Sarufa, in her mid-40s, who was travelling to Iokea for a farewell feast for her elder sister who passed away 43 days ago.

Mrs Sarufa died instantly from a head injury. Her niece, Emma Tau, who was accompanying her aunt, also died instantly, and one of her sons-in-law, Kivovia Kevei Ovai, a former Correctional Services officer, also died in the crash.

An employee of a mining company, Loksy Ovai, who was heading home to Iokea for his field break, was killed as he sat in the cabin of the PMV truck. The driver, Charlie Tapora, and a third person in the cabin, were crushed into the back of the cabin and died instantly.

Police said the driver and crew of the city-bound truck also died on impact.

There was a smell of death in the air and cargo and passengers’ belongings strewn all over the scene of the accident when The National arrived yesterday.

Kerema East local level government president, Robert Paiva, who was at the scene, was shocked and distraught by the tragedy.

Many who died were his relatives and he was travelling to Port Moresby last night to be with family members.

He called for more police patrols on the highway and urged the Works Department to clear the sides of the roads which were overgrown with tall grass that made the national highway appear like a bush track, with visibility of on-coming vehicles extremely difficult (see separate story above).

The Hiritano Highway Police Patrol told The National that the PMV travelling to Port Moresby was loaded with passengers and cargo and it collided head-on with the PMV from Port Moresby.

On impact, passengers and cargo were thrown toward the cabins of the two PMVs, with visible signs of the metal frames bent inwards.

Help was sought from the Bereina Hospital and the Catholic Diocese staff, who rushed to the scene, struggled to retrieve bodies from the twisted metal frames and cabins.

They rushed four passengers with serious internal injuries to Port Moresby General Hospital while others with broken bones were taken to Bereina Hospital. Later on Saturday night, they were transferred to Port Moresby General Hospital with the dead bodies, police and hospital staff said.

The total death toll was put at 17 last night by various persons and police spoken to by The National.

The front of the POMGH turned into a large mourning site as people from Gulf province arrived in droves as news of the accident spread through various suburbs like Taikone, Kaugere, Mahuru, Gerehu, Koki, Hohola, Tokarara and Gordon on Saturday night.

There was wailing and mourning at the hospital grounds up to about 1am on Sunday as relatives confirmed deaths of their family members and identified bodies as they were transported in.

Reliable sources from POMGH’s Accident and Emergency unit confirmed that 17 bodies were transferred to the hospital morgue, while the rest of the passengers, some with serious injuries, are fighting for their lives at the intensive care unit.

When The National visited the emergency ward and surgical units at 6pm yesterday, 43 badly injured passengers were fighting for their lives.


1 comment:

  1. I have seen too many people injured and even killed working with unsafe car equipment. It seems to be all about the bottom dollar to most manufacturers which is why you have to be very careful when purchasing new machinery.