Streaks of dried blood, broken glass, and wrung metal plates lined the rail tracks right opposite the PWD Bus Station, Shogunle, Ikeja, Lagos State.
Trapped in the squashed vehicle were sweaty faces, tired breaths, and bloodied bodies, struggling to find their way out to the rays of the morning light above.
Earlier, residents watched in shock how an oncoming train collided with a staff bus, filled with passengers en route to the Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, from Ikotun, pushing them metres away before coming to a halt.
Jozebrain Media gathered that the driver of the BRT had veered into the rail track despite signs from the level crossing flag bearers and other motorists urging him not to do so as a train was oncoming.
“It all happened in a split second. One moment, the bus was waiting. Another moment, he had ‘jumped’ onto the level crossing, causing a crash,” an eyewitness, simply identified as Chioma, told one of our correspondents.
Corroborating Chioma’s claim, a Chief Mechanical Engineer and Lagos District Manager, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Mr Augustine Arisa, said the train which collided with the Lagos State Staff BRT pushed it 100m further before finally making a stop because of the high velocity the train came with.
Arisa noted that around 7.50am, he received a distress call from one of the train drivers of the NRC, alerting his office to a train-bus accident at the Shogunle Level Crossing.
He said, “On further interaction, we found out that the Level-Crossing Keeper was there. The LCK is the man with the red and yellow flags at all times at the level crossing.
“If he gives you the red flag, you are to stop. If he gives you the yellow flag, you are to move with caution. If he gives the yellow flag to the train driver, that means he has asked the train driver to start coming.
“With that, the train driver has the confidence that the rail is clear for him to drive through. This simply means all buses should wait and not move till the yellow flag is given to them. With that, the train driver has the confidence that the rail is clear for him to drive through.”
The district manager also stated that the BRT driver veered off from where other buses were waiting and entered the track, ignoring the red flag by the level crossing keeper.
He said, “Before the train driver could stop, he had already hit the vehicle (BRT) and carried it to a distance of about 100 metres before finally stopping. This is because the train cannot stop immediately.”
He further emphasised that no one should be on the rail track for whatever reason, adding that anyone seen on the rail track is an intruder.
BRT driver had earphones on – Eyewitnesses
Many eyewitnesses, who spoke to Peter Friday Jozebrain Media, claimed that the BRT driver plugged in earphones as he drove the staff through the level crossing.
A trader, Mrs Mmesoma Akachi, who sold wares at the rail track, told our correspondents that the driver paid no attention to the flag bearers who flagged him to stop with the red flag.
She said, “The driver is very reckless and impatient. He should have waited. It will not take too long before the train will pass and he will have his way. But, no, he decided to rush through. Now, see the mess he made.”
Another trader, Chika Joe, said, the incident happened too fast.
She had just arrived at her shop and was arranging some wares when she saw smoke billowing from a distance.
“I saw a train pass and buses waiting. But I did not know that the BRT driver refused to wait. In fact, they were whistling at him, shouting and flagging him to stop. But he refused. Maybe he was in a hurry,” she said with baited breath.
The trader added that in a few minutes, she saw the train had carried the BRT down to the other side of the level crossing, smashing into a fence.
The remains of a young woman covered in a pool of blood were seen between the tracks.
Residents said she had attempted to jump off the train but hit her head on a slab of stone, which made her bleed to death.
The once busy Ikeja rail tracks often filled with traders were scanty when Jozebrain Media visited the scene of the incident on Thursday.
Only a few traders were seen, sadly seated as they attended to customers.
One of them was Iya Agbo, who sells medicinal herbs at the entrance of the bus stop.
She told our correspondents that she was still in shock at how the driver blatantly defied the orders of the rail flagmen.
Speaking in Pidgin English, she said, “I thought the BRT was waiting like other buses but was shocked when he just drove into the track. Everyone was shouting, asking him to reverse or drive really fast before the train hit him.
“There was a vehicle in front of him so there was a limit to how far he could go. Though the front part of the bus had crossed, the back was hit by the train and pushed many metres away from the site of the collision.”
He said, “The man (driver) was not focused. He plugged in a device in his ears that did not allow him to hear the noise. I could hear it from the other end of PWD where I was. It is still a wonder why he couldn’t hear it.
“I rushed to the scene to see what I could do, but I broke down crying. I saw young people. I saw women covered in blood. A middle-aged man just sat on the floor; he couldn’t even stand when we tried to help him. His legs were shaking.”
An officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps, who refused to identify himself because he was not authorised to speak to the press on the matter, said the driver tried to escape but was caught by some young men who identified him.
“One part of the bus had already crossed. It was the other part that was still on the track. You need to see the blood here,” he added.
A walk through the track showed some debris from the bus and patches of blood.
I flagged down BRT driver five times – Flagman
A level crossing keeper with the NRC, who refused to give his name for security reasons but claimed to have been on duty at the time of the crash, told Jozebrain Media that he flagged the BRT driver conveying the government workers to stop more than five times but he refused to do so.