The young lady who is still shocked by the accident recounts the chilling experience in this interview.
Oghenetejiri Walter, and two of her friends as well as a cab driver survived a fallen tanker accident in Lagos on Sunday, September 19, 2021. She recounts the chilling experience in this interview with TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Oghenetejiri Walter; I work as a marketing executive on the Island with an organisation that sells kitchen appliances.
You are one of the survivors of a fallen tanker accident at Ojuelegba in Lagos on Sunday, September 19. Can you narrate how it all happened?
On that day, we were all coming from school – Lagos State Polytechnic – and going to a food joint in Surulere. I was telling my friends that I hadn’t eaten ofada rice before and that I hoped my first time would be a nice experience. I was asking them, “What does it taste like?” I had been asking that question out of curiosity even before we got into the cab. So, when we were in the cab, my friend was showing me pictures of ofada rice and other dishes they sell at the restaurant. I rested on her while checking the things on her phone.
The articulated vehicle was behind us, so we never expected such a thing to happen. But all of a sudden, as if it was hand-picked from somewhere, we just saw the container falling on our cab. It came to us unexpectedly, perhaps if the truck was beside us, we would have told our driver to drive faster and move away quickly. But there was nothing we could do about it, not even our driver could save us, we were all helpless. But thank God that I was not sitting upright because if I was, perhaps, I would have been seriously injured.
When you saw the container coming down on your vehicle, did you make any attempt to jump out of the vehicle?
Running out of a moving vehicle could have been too risky for us, we couldn’t do anything. And it happened too suddenly. It was like the container came out of the blue. The only thing we did was just to shout Jesus. We kept shouting Jesus! Jesus! till the container fell on our vehicle.
I sat on the left side of the vehicle behind the driver. It was so scary that I couldn’t do anything. I saw the way the thing (container) was coming down, and all I could do was tilt backwards, as if wanting to dodge the container from falling on me; it was just a reflex action though. While I was doing that I kept shouting Jesus till the container fell on the car and we heard the sound of the fall and the crumbling of the vehicle. It sounded like a nylon being squeezed or egg shells being crumbled.
What happened after the container fell on you?
When the container fell on us, we were all trapped. We kept shouting help! help us! We were alive. So, we heard people saying, “They are alive. Hold on! Help is on the way.” My friend, Motunrayo, was saying, “T.J, is this how we are going to die?” I told her not to worry, to hold on that we would not die; that we would be rescued, seeing that people were already trying to get us help.
How were you able to breathe since you were trapped under the container?
Thankfully, we were able to breathe even while we were trapped. Although it was so dark under there, I was just touching my friends at first to know that they were alive. Nobody could recognise anybody. I was touching the drivers’ head, thinking it was my friend Austin’s head. It was when I was calling the name that the driver said he was the one. Then my friend responded. We could talk well at first. In fact, I could recall telling everyone not to move because the more we attempted to move, the more we would hurt our bones. I was resting on Motunrayo’s legs before the incident occurred, so she was trying to remove her leg. My neck was on her leg and as she was trying to remove her leg, I was choking.
Soon, it became difficult for us to breathe as air wasn’t really coming in. I remember telling others that we should open our mouths, so that air could come in. Later, we all started gasping for breath. We could not breathe. God did a wonder; that’s all I can say. It was God.
Did you at any point think that you were going to die?
By the time the container was eventually removed, I was already tired. I could no longer breathe well. Just before then, I had concluded that I had held on for long enough and was tired. My hands dropped like I was surrendering at that point, then in like two seconds, I came alive again. Even my friend Motunrayo was also going. At some point, she couldn’t even respond again while we called her name. So, when Austin was calling, I would hold her hand and shake her. But Austin kept calling our names at intervals to ensure that we were fine.
What kept you going in the middle of those moments?
It was God, because every time I felt like I was giving up, it looked like someone did a cardiopulmonary resuscitation on me and I came back to life. Also, the people that were around while we were stuck under the container were very helpful. They kept hitting the container as if trying to break the container while the emergency service of the government had yet arrived. It gave me hope that people were there and were trying to help us. I am grateful to God for that person that kept hitting the container.
Did you sustain any injury?
No. I didn’t even have a scratch, just a little bit of body pains. In fact, that has been the most amazing part of our testimony that despite all of that, none of us sustained any serious injury or fracture. The highest was just a minor cut on the hand. Before we were removed, I could no longer feel anything in the right part of my body. In fact, I was trying to close my palm but I couldn’t. I was scared that the right part of my body was gone but the moment the container was removed, I was relieved. I felt very good. Despite the fact that the car was crushed so badly, we are alive and more so, we came out without fractures and wounds.
How would you describe your survival?
This is more than a miracle. For each and every one of us that were trapped in that vehicle, our testimony is more than a miracle. Neither us nor the people that were there could actually explain or comprehend what exactly happened to us. It is more than a miracle because the word miracle is too common these days. It is more than a miracle and we are just grateful to God. God shielded us; in fact, I would say God was there with us in the vehicle because how does anyone explain this, that we were all intact despite the magnitude of the incident? When we came out, I was just crying because no one could believe that we were in that crushed car.
What effect does the whole experience have on you?
It was a very traumatising experience. I am yet to recover from the effect. At one point, I was crying when my friend was no longer talking. I was just crying and begging her to talk to me. I don’t pray that my enemy go through what we went through that night. No human deserves to go through any of that. We merely escaped by the grace of God because I wouldn’t even say that we are so faithful in our service to God.
How did your relatives find out about the incident?
My boss called me that Sunday evening while we were stuck under the container. I couldn’t pick. But I dialed back his number with my left hand and told him that I was involved in an accident and currently stuck under a fallen container at Ojuelegba. He was like, “How can you make a call while involved in an accident?” But I kept telling him that I wasn’t joking that I was currently involved in an accident. I was just shouting, ‘Start coming.’ He lives in Irawo just before Ikorodu. Immediately after the call, my phone fell from my hand, so I couldn’t bend down to pick the phone anymore even when the phone was vibrating just beside my legs. When I later got my phone, I saw like 30 missed calls. That means that after my call with him ended, he must have called my family members to inform them.
Do you still have flashes from the incident?
Yes. I have not totally got over the shock. Once I close my eyes, the images of the incident still play in my head. I would literally see the container falling on my head. I will open my eyes with fear all over my face. It’s the people around me that have been talking me out of it; telling me to calm down, “You’re home in your room.” It’s such a terrible experience. I have always heard about this trailer and container falling on people, but experiencing it is so different for me. I have never thought that I could be caught in such a web.
Were you given proper medical attention?
Yes. We were taken to the hospital. I was given some drips. They did an X-ray to check if I had any bone issue and after the X-ray showed that I was fine, the hospital also checked for internal injury but there was none; so, I was discharged alongside others.
Who paid the hospital bill?
My elder brother did. They are yet to find the owner of the truck.