A Police officer was driving the Honda CRV which collided head-on with a Nissan Caravan at the 60-kilometre peg along Mvurwi-Centenary Road on Monday, killing 11 people and injuring 14 others, The Herald has learnt.
Information gathered by The Herald yesterday, from the scene of the accident, showed that the CRV was being driven by a Centenary police officer, who was taking a murder and rape suspect from Bindura to Centenary for indications and was accompanied by two other officers.
It could not be immediately established, who, among the three deceased officers, only identified as Inspector Nehwangura (officer-in-charge Centenary), Constables Mashona and Zenda was driving the vehicle.
It is alleged that the suspect had beaten and raped an elderly woman in Centenary.
The granny later died from injuries sustained from the attack, leading to the arrest of the suspect.
Speaking from the accident scene, the officer commanding national traffic Assistant Commissioner Isaac Tayengwa confirmed the death of the three officers from the Honda CRV.
Asst Comm Tayengwa could neither deny nor confirm if a tussle occurred in the vehicle or that the driver could have been speeding.
“What we want to urge motorists is that they should always observe speed limits and take caution when approaching curves. In this case, we are not sure what could have happened inside the car. But yes, I can confirm that the officer-in-charge of Centenary, and two other officers were also in that vehicle and they were taking a murder and rape suspect to Centenary,” said Asst Comm Tayengwa.
While Asst Comm Tayengwa said the officers had been given the Honda CRV by a well wisher for the journey, some residents insisted they had hired it from a well known Centenary prophet known as Biggie Makanjera. The prophet was, however, not in the vehicle.
One of the survivors of the accident Mrs Anna Nyamwanza, who sustained leg injuries said the commuter omnibus had just dropped another passenger less than 200 metres from the accident scene, when disaster struck.
“The commuter omnibus was not even speeding because it had just dropped another passenger a few metres away from here and the driver further reduced his speed when he saw the private vehicle coming towards his lane and tried to pull off the road but it was too late,” said Mrs Nyamwanza.
Other eyewitnesses dismissed insinuations that the suspected criminal could have tried to fight the driver resulting in him losing control of the vehicle.
“I was sitting by the roadside herding cattle when the accident happened. The small vehicle was speeding from Mvurwi towards Centenary, and when it approached the curve the driver failed to negotiate, resulting in a head on collision with a commuter omnibus, which was coming from Centenary,” said 33-year-old Mr Forgetmore Tigu, who was the first person at the accident scene.
Mr Tigu said after the accident, he rushed to the vehicles and tried to open doors of the small vehicle but failed.
He said he then opened the commuter omnibus’ passenger door and started assisting the injured.
“If I had other male counterparts we could have helped many people out of the commuter omnibus, but I was the only man with two other women from the next plot. The other man came when the fire had already started and we could not help anymore but just watched people dying in flames,” said Mr Tigu.
One of the women who assisted Mr Tigu, Ms Ethel Tsiga (22) expressed concern with the delay by police and ambulance services to attend to the scene.
“We called both police and ambulance services, but their response was very slow, considering that they were coming from Mvurwi District Hospital, which is less than 15 kilometres from here,” said Ms Tsiga.
She said other motorists ended up taking the injured to Mvurwi Hospital, before the arrival of either ambulance or police.
“Even when it arrived, the ambulance did not have an emergency siren and its speed did not even show any urgency” added the other woman Mrs Juliet Mudoni.
But Mashonaland Central provincial medical director Dr Clemence Tshuma said the hospital did all it could given the resources it had.
Dr Tshuma said the hospital only has one ambulance but because of the magnitude of the problem, they had to mobilise three other ambulances from other hospitals to assist ferrying the injured to the hospital.
Dr Tshuma said eight of the injured where immediately referred to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals as they could not be managed from Mvurwi District Hospital.
“We referred eight and they returned two after instructing the hospital on how to manage
them. We are managing all those under our care, but the main challenge these patients are going to face is money to get specialist treatment. Most of them have bone fractures and these require specialist services,” said Dr Tshuma.
Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Advocate Martin Dinha lamented the lack of a public fund to cater for road accident victims.
He said it was sad that people get injured in public transport but meet treatment costs on their own.
“The country must come up with a mechanism to fund treatment costs for accident victims either a certain percentage from the tollgates or another mechanism,” said Minister Dinha.
Minister Dinha, however, said Government was working on ensuring that they get State-assisted funerals.
The accident comes after 43 other people were killed last month in an accident that involved a King Lion bus along Harare-Chirundu Highway.