Pulse went to the hospitals to see victims of the Otedola bridge tanker accident or speak with their families. But doctors wouldn't let us in.
When Pulse visited hospitals where the Lagos State government said it had taken victims of a recent tanker accident to, doctors, nurses, paramedics and security personnel couldn’t wait to firmly slam doors in our faces.
In back-to-back press briefings, the Lagos State government announced that some of the persons injured in the Otedola bridge accident of Thursday June 28, 2018, were taken to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja and the Burns and Trauma Centre in Gbagada.
A petrol tanker had spilled its contents on the nation’s busiest expressway on a chaotic evening in Lagos, losing its brakes and exploding into balls of fire that would consume 54 cars.
According to the Lagos State government, 12 persons died in the inferno that ensued and four were left badly injured.
Cold reception at the hospital
At about 1:30pm on Monday, July 2, 2018, Pulse drove into the Gbagada General Hospital sprawled on an expanse of land, to speak to family members of the victims of the accident and to see some of the victims.
At the entrance of the Burns and Trauma center, a stout, balding security personnel listened attentively as this writer stated why we had come to his office.
“No sir, we will not allow you into the ward. The press are not allowed to see the victims of the Otedola bridge accident”, the Burns and Trauma security personnel who was spotting a blue uniform on black trousers, insisted, with a rigorous shake of his head. He wasn't ready to accede to our repeated pleas either.
Minutes later, he had a change of heart, however.
“Okay, Oga. Siddon for that chair. I’ll call someone who will attend to you”, he said in a husky tone.
20 minutes later, a man in a white laboratory coat walked down the corridor to meet this writer. He quickly introduced himself as Dr. Iroko; as his gaze locked into mine for a few seconds.
I went through the trouble of introducing myself to Dr Iroko all over again, stated why I had brought my team to the hospital and why it was important that we spoke to the victims or members of their families. We were here in peace, I explained.
“No, sir, we don’t allow the media or the press here”, Iroko said. And then he seemed to have a brief change of heart and motioned this writer to an iron chair in the lobby.
“Give me a minute”, Dr Iroko said, before taking brisk steps to the office from whence he had emerged.
When Dr. Iroko returned, he had a pained expression plastered on his face.
“I am sorry Sir, you have to go get a letter from our Ikeja head office if you want to see the patients. Our CMD will give you a permission letter and then you can come back.”
“But Sir…Sir….”, I was protesting mildly, hands in the air. “How many people from the Otedola bridge accident were brought in here? What are their names? Who are their family members? Can we speak to them?”
Dr. Iroko held a hand up to dismiss this writer. “I am not answering any of your questions. I am not saying anything to you any longer. Have a good day”. And he was gone.
We hopped into our car and made for the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja as Iroko had ordered.
Dribble in Ikeja hospital
At LASUTH, we made for the Trauma ward. Not here, we were told. ‘Go to the Burns Unit’, nurses said. At the Burns Unit, we were told to take our enquiries to the Surgical Unit.
And at the Surgical Unit, the paramedics told us to head for the office of the Chief Medical Director (CMD) which sat down the hallway, through the parking lot and down a driveway sandwiched by well-manicured flowers and lawns.
At the CMD’s office, this writer filled a form that was taken to the CMD. That was around 3pm.
At 5pm, the receptionist walked to this writer to announce that the CMD would no longer be seeing visitors. “Have a nice day”, the receptionist said, deadpanned and dismissive.
Lagos Health Commissioner briefs press
During a press briefing, Lagos Health Commissioner, Jide Idris said the number of casualties from the accident were 12. A minor was part of this number.
According to Idris, “they lost their lives to the inferno and they were all burnt beyond recognition while one out of the seven survivors who had 90 per cent burns, died in the hospital.”
The Commissioner added that one out of the two victims who were taken to a private hospital, died soon after.
“The victims of the accident were swiftly taken to three hospitals namely: the Accident and Emergency at the Toll Gate, the Truama and Burns Centre, Gbagada General Hospital and the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, for prompt medical treatment”, Idris said.
Of the seven surviving victims that were taken to the hospitals, five comprising four males and a female were taken to the Trauma and Burns Centre in Gbagada General Hospital. Of this number, one died.
“The remaining four victims who had burns ranging between 8-48 per cent burns are stable and responding to treatment.
“Additionally, two patients, a 48-year-old male who also had extensive burns and a 42 year-old-male with soft tissue injuries were brought to the burns and plastic unit, LASUTH…and one of them has been discharged while the other person is stable and responding to treatment", Idris announced.
Eyewitnesses at the scene of the accident had disputed the government’s casualty figures, stating that the death toll from the fire was a lot higher.
This week, another eyewitness told Pulse that as many as 64 people may have died in the fire sparked by the leaking petrol tanker. This eyewitness asked Pulse how plausible it is for four injured victims to be taken to three hospitals in Lagos.
“It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t add up. They are f***king lying to the world”, the eyewitness said in disbelief.
Repeated calls to Commissioner Idris after the doctors prevented us from accessing the wards where the patients were kept, were neither answered nor returned.