Fourteen passengers inside a commercial bus escaped unhurt as their vehicle was gutted by fire in the early hours of Saturday, on the long bridge of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
It was reported that the Toyota Hiace, with number plate AFN117YL, which was headed to Ilorin carrying 14 passengers, and took off from the Ijora motor park in Lagos State nearly skidded off the road when one of the tyres burst, causing it to fall on its side as it hit the sidewalk of the bridge.
The bus, which had already caught fire, finally came to a stop in the middle of the road as the passengers scampered for safety.
Speaking to our correspondent who was at the scene of the incident, the bus driver who gave his name as Razak Ajiboro said it was one of the tyres on the driver’s side that burst while in motion.
“It was the front tyre at the driver’s side of the bus that burst while it was in motion. The impact on the median was what caused the fire. It was just the grace of God that helped us, if not, the bus would have fallen off the bridge. It was God that controlled the bus and not me the driver. If not, we’d all be dead by now.”
The driver who was clutching his left hand in pain and still apprehensive about the incident expressed appreciation to God that no life was lost in the inferno.
“There were 14 passengers in the bus, besides a few scratches, none of them sustained serious injuries, neither was there loss of any life”, he said.
He revealed that no property belonging to him or any of the passengers was rescued from the fire.
“Everything in the bus got burnt. We could not save anything at all because the fire spread so fast. All the passengers’ belongings got burnt in the fire. As you can see, some of them could not even pick their footwear as they were struggling to get out of the bus”, the driver noted with a shaky voice.
Speaking further, the driver who spoke with a teary eye revealed that the bus didn’t belong to him but to his boss.
“The bus doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to my oga, I have called people to inform him of the accident. My two phones and other belongings I had with me got burnt in the fire”, he noted.
One of the passengers who simply identified himself as Ilyas gave our correspondent a slightly different account of the incident.
According to him, contrary to the driver’s account, it was the rear tyre and not the front tyre that burst.
“While we were coming, I observed that the driver stopped at Ojota to tighten the bolts of the tyres at the back of the bus not too long after we left the park. While on the long bridge, one of the tyres at the back suddenly burst and the bus swerved towards the sidewalk and fell on its side, but the driver was able to control it. At that point, the bus already caught fire at the back. When the bus finally came to a stop, the man who sat by the door made frantic efforts to open the door. After several punches and kicks, the door finally opened and we all rushed out of the bus to safety.”
Adding, he confirmed that no lives were lost but aside from his backpack (a small school bag) which he was able to pull out of the bus, all the passengers’ belongings were burnt in the fire.
“Yes, no life was lost, besides this my small bag you can see here, nothing else could be rescued from the bus, everything got burnt”, he recounted.
Recounting his experience, the passenger who forced the door open, Mr Awojobi Isiaka, a staff of Flour Mills Nigeria Limited in Lagos said they were just fortunate to be alive because it wasn’t a palatable occurrence.
Isiaka who disclosed to our correspondent that he took a three days casual leave to enable him to travel to Ilorin to see his family said all his educational and professional certificates, including the foodstuffs among other things he was to give his family got burnt in the fire.
“I think it was an explosion from the rear tyre which made the bus lose control, it was just God who took control, if not the bus would have somersaulted to the other side of the road. I think in the course of swerving here and there after which the bus fell on its side and hit the sidewalk, was when the fire outbreak happened.
“I took a three-day casual leave to travel home to see my family. Everything I have, including my certificates got burnt. Even the new Android phone I bought for my wife got burnt, I have nothing left as I speak to you.”
Speaking on how he was able to force the door open, he said,
“It was the grace of God and experience as an engineer that I used to force the door open alongside hitting it hard. At that point, the fire was almost out of control. The passengers at the back were already shouting in tears thinking they were going to die in the fire. Thank God no life was lost.”
As of the time of this report, another bus had come to convey the passengers to their destination, while men of the Federal Road Safety Corp and the Nigeria Police were on the ground to ensure the free flow of traffic and the security of lives and properties.
The FRSC and police officers declined to speak to our correspondent, stating that they were not authorised to do so.