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Monday, July 4, 2022

Wellington fire survivor: I survived, but I don’t know what happened to my passengers

By Alfred Koroma

Early November last year, a fuel tanker exploded in Wellington after colliding with a truck, killing dozens of people and leaving dozens injured.

The fuel spilled from the tanker before exploding, engulfing people trying to gather the leaking fuel and vehicles waiting in the heavy traffic caused by the incident.

About seven months now since the deadly incident, some of the survivors and relatives of the victims have spoken to Concord Times.  I better warned readers that the experiences shared here, contain disturbing scenes.

Of the critically injured cases at the Emergency Hospital, Emmanuel Boima a taxi driver is the only survivor.  Looking severely burned and irritatingly disturbed by the burns, Boima continuously itches his body all over as he speaks to this medium.

“My body scratches every seconds. I can’t stay half a minute without having to scratch my body parts,” he said, adding “I still feel the heat of the fire inside my body. And most often, I feel a shock like current. It’s not easy for me.  Boima apparently needs more medical attention.

The taxi driver was waiting in traffic with four passengers when the fuel tanker exploded and the flames engulfed the vehicle. The moment that happened, the doors of the taxi became stiff; we were unable to open them, he said.

Boima broke the car’s window and narrowly dribbled out to safety. His brother who was sitting in the front seat with him died, but he has no idea what happened to his passengers in the back seats.

“I lost my car. I survived. But I don’t know what happened to my passengers,” the taxi driver told Concord Times, thanking God, medical workers and donors for their support.

“The hospital where I was admitted, I’m the only survivor of all of us who were in critical condition. People tell me that they thought I would die. I thank the medical workers,” he added.

Boima lives with his wife, children and relatives, seven of them in a single room and pallor.   Because he is currently unable to do anything by himself, Boima receives Le700 thousand monthly supports from All For One, a Non-Governmental Organization based in Wellington Community.

In another interview, Zainab Sesay, 30, lost her husband, Prince K Kallon, in the fire. Kallon who was staying at PMB, close to where the disaster happened, was never present at the beginning of the whole fire scenario.

According to his wife, Kallon went to watch the scene of the disaster upon seeing the fire. But what, perhaps Kallon didn’t know was that people carrying away the leaking fuel from the tanker had spilled it where he was standing. By the time the flames engulfed him; he tried running away but was too late.  He died five days later at the Emergency Hospital.

“Suddenly I heard my husband screaming my name twice. I ran to the scene. I saw him walking towards me burned all over his body, his wife, Zainab Sesay told this medium. 

After her husband’s unfortunate demise, Zainab is unable to pay her house rent, forcing her to relocate to Port Loko with her four children.

The wife of another victim, Alpha Mansaray, a commercial bike rider who also lost his life in the incident told this medium “…my husband burned to ash.”

Mbalu Kamara, 22, said her husband went to work in the morning but never returned home again.

 “I was at home when I heard of the fire incident, and they told me my husband’s bike was one fire. I immediately ran to the scene, but I could not see my husband. We went to the hospital, we did not see him. We kept looking out for him until we were told by one of his colleagues that my husband burned to ash,” she said.

 Alpha Mansaray had just loaned the bike he was riding and had not completed payment for it.  He left two kids with Mbalu who has now jumped into fish trading to resume payment for a bike that is no more.

A 14-year old JSS3 pupil, Saidu Sesay was returning from evening classes when he lost his life in the fire tragedy, his mother, Aminata Sesay told Concord Times.

  When she saw the fire, Aminata said her mind ran to her son as he hadn’t returned home at the time. So she and other relatives went out to look for Saidu Sesay and later found the charred body of the 14-year old in hospital.

“I felt bad that my son went for lesson and we end up collecting charred remains of him from a hospital,” she lamented.

The superstitious Aminata Sesay said she got a sign that something was going to happen as a result of the unprecedented stomach pain she felt earlier in the day before the tanker explosion.  But she didn’t think of her son nor did she imagine any tragedy of such magnitude. 

 Another mother, Mbalu Turay lost her eldest son, Sylvester Kommeh, 22. Turay said her son was returning from an evening lesson in early preparation for the ongoing West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) when he got trapped in the fire.  Kommeh gave up while he was being rushed to the hospital. 

Over 153 people died from the fire tragedy last year .  84 of that number, burned beyond recognition while 99 injured were admitted at Cannaught, Choitram, Emergency and the 34 Military hospitals where some later passed away.

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