Eighteen people were crushed to death yesterday at the foot of the Niger Bridge in Onitsha, Anambra State.
A truck loaded with two 40 feet containers lost control and fell on passersby.
According to eyewitnesses, the accident occurred at about 6am, when some officials allegedly collecting emblem fees for the government attempted to forcefully stop the truck coming from Asaba.
The driver reportedly lost control and ran into other oncoming vehicles.
The activities of the emblem officials, who work throughout the night, had resulted in several accidents around the bridge.
The accident involved seven vehicles. Four were commercial buses and three private vehicles.
The four buses with registration numbers, XA 556 BUR, XD 566 ABN, XA 893 ACA and AWK 526 XA, were destroyed with many passengers crushed.
A survivor, Mrs. Rose Iwuno, said the accident was avoidable.
Mrs. Iwuno said if the officials had not accosted the truck driver, the accident would not have happened.
She said: “We were going to Asaba through the other lane but suddenly our driver noticed that the driver of the truck had lost control.
“Our driver tried to escape but it was late, other vehicles were on both sides and even behind us.
“I passed out but what I could remember was a heavy sound which was when one of the containers from the truck fell off and crushed a bus in front of us before rolling towards our bus.
“The truck skidded off the road, rammed into one of the heavy pillars at the bridgehead and somersaulted.
“The number of casualties I cannot count but all I can tell you is that you see that bus that was smashed, I don’t think that anybody will come out of it alive.
“The containers were heavy and there were no Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) officials to help.
“The casualties will be up to 20,” she said.
It was gathered that though the accident took place in front of the FRSC Onitsha Unit Command, there was no respite for the victims as there was no equipment to lift the containers off.
The incident took another dimension when an angry mob went on the rampage and set ablaze the make-shift office of the emblem collectors.
It took the intervention of sympathisers and workers of the Consolidated Construction Company (CCC) who brought their heavy equipment to lift the container.
The dismembered bodies were evacuated to an undisclosed mortuary; the injured were rushed to various hospitals.
FRSC Unit Commander Fredrick Oko said he was still collating the number of casualties. He said the number of casualties may not be more than two.