The 78th birthday anniversary celebration of the Esam of Benin, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, turned tragic on Wednesday, as one of the vehicles in the celebrant’s entourage plunged into the Ovia River, killing the four occupants.
The victims were all staff of the Igbinedion Unversity.
They were Messrs Morgan Efosa Uwogiren, Lucky Ehiorobo, Mrs. Shirley Iwede of the University’s Department of Business Administration and Ms Shola Ajayi of the Department of Banking and Finance.
Most tragic was the fate of Ms. Ajayi, whose corpse and another female’s were yet to be recovered.
She was said to be on her way back from the university in Okada town where she had gone to submit her resignation letter, having secured another appointment with the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
Mr. Amin Adewale of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), who confirmed that the corpses of the two women in the ill-fated car were still missing, said the remains of the two men had since been deposited at the UBTH mortuary.
He further said the road crash occurred after their car, a black Volkswagen Audi Station Wagon 80, with registration number EDO BF 438 USL ended up inside the river near Ekiadolor in Edo South, while trying to avoid an oncoming lorry.
The lorry was reportedly coming from Benin end of the road and in an attempt to avoid a failed portion, drove into the lane where the car conveying the lecturers was coming from and forced it into the river.
Public Relations Officer of the University, Mr. Emeka Okika, who confirmed the death of the lecturers, said he was yet to be fully briefed about the circumstances leading to their death.
Okika said they were travelling with the father of former governor Lucky Igbinedion who had earlier in the day joined the launch into satellite, Benin-based Independent Television owned by the celebrant.
The carnival-like train later left for the country-home of Chief Igbinedion, at Okada, where another celebration took place, after which they returned to Benin City.
Disaster struck on the return trip to Benin when the driver of one of the cars, an Audi 80, in the convoy conveying the four lecturers, lost control and plunged into the Ovia River, along the Benin-Ore Road, killing all the occupants instantly.
Three years ago, during his 75th birthday celebration, one of Igbinedion’s staff allegedly had an accident and lost his life while running an errand for the Benin high chief.
Also, a musician, Omoregbe Okpenye (aka Bayo Ade), who was entertaining Igbinedion’s guest at his palatial residence in Benin during his 77th birthday celebration was suddenly kidnapped by unknown gunmen and later killed.
Meanwhile, the Zonal Commander of the FRSC in charge of Edo, Delta and Anambra, Mr. Wole Olaniran, yesterday described the death of the lecturers as unfortunate, adding: “Our operations in rescue and evacuation of crashed vehicles and victims from accident scenes are made difficult as we do not have heavy duty cranes.
“Because we rely on sister agencies and private collaborators to make these cranes available, the logistics involved increases our time of response and thus hinders our evacuation operations.”
Olaniran, however, explained that his command was trying to ensure the level of fatality in some accident-prone black spots (corridors) within the states under his zone was reduced to the barest minimum.
He said part of the measure evolved was the mobile squad weekly patrol special operations carried out on these corridors to curtail the speed limits of motorists.