Chicken Soup Factory’s accident prompts gunfire

By Kai Toteh | October 31, 2013

Burned yello bus
Burned yellow bus sits idle on the Somalia Drive

Monrovia:- Chicken Soup Factory in Gardnersville was chaotic yesterday following the fatal accident involving a yellow bus, a taxicab and a motorbike last Tuesday around 7p.m. The motorcyclist, who is yet to be identified, died on the spot in the accident.

Some witnesses and motorcyclists blamed the yellow bus’ driver for the fatal accident. Witnesses said the driver escaped the scene before the crowd arrived.

According to motorcyclists’ account backed by some eyewitnesses in the area, the driver of the yellow bus deliberately hit the motorcyclist, killing him on the spot, but other eyewitnesses differed with the account, saying that it was a taxicab coming from an opposite direction (from Down Town Monrovia toward Red Light) that hit the motorbike rider onto the yellow bus that was heading to town.

An eyewitness who spoke to INSIGHT yesterday, said had firefighters and police arrived on the scene on time, the fire would have been extinguished, adding, “Our country is way back. The bus did not burst in flame right away. It took a very long time before the bus started burning after it was put on fire.”

Meanwhile, a squad from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberian National Police has been dispatched to the scene following the withdrawal of the police. Members of the ERU were seen by reporters, sitting near the burnt bus. Their assignment, according to one officer, who asked for anonymity, was to secure the scene and to forestall any potential threat as some angry motorcyclists were seen grouping around the area.

Away from the accident scene, hundreds of people including motorcyclists gathered near LPRC’s junction, where a checkpoint was set up by police to enforce the operation intended to impound motorbikes found plying the Somalia Drive between Red Light and Free Port.

The commander for Zone Four near LPRC was not available for comments, but a police officer who also begged for anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to the press, told INSIGHT hundreds of motorbikes have been taken off the Somalia Drive, and said the operation continues.

Asked if there have been arrests of motorbike riders, he said yes but failed to give the figure of arrests made.

Reacting to the accident that killed one of their members, John Ofkangbah, General Supervisor for Gardnersville Brach of the Motorcyclists Association told reporters the bus was set on fire by angry crowd and not the motorcyclists as it has been circulated in Monrovia.

He said, seeing how deliberate the yellow bus’s driver acted in killing the young man, some people in the vicinity, mainly youths got angry and set the bus on fire.

Mr. John Ofkangbah has also accused police of inciting chaos and escalating tension. He accused police of being reckless in handling the situation and investigation, adding that ceasing motorbikes is not the solution to the problem. He said, let’s police do their work properly so that the proper cause of the accident and the burning of the bus can be established.

Ofkangbah, who was surrounded by dozens of motorcyclists, sympathizers and spectators, Wednesday afternoon near the accident scene, said police should stop arresting motorcyclists and impounding their bikes, adding, doing so is a provocation that could lead to negative result.

He said people are not driving motorbikes for the fun of it, but this is what they do before they get food to eat, place to stay, and take on other responsibilities.

He asked, “Do you know what will happen if motorbikes are taken off the streets?” He answered himself by saying plenty things can happen. Armed robbery and other criminal activities will resurface and will be on the rise.

A group of young people standing around him, shouted in the crowd, “They want us to armed rob. They want it we get it. That is how they want us to live.”

“We don’t want violence. The police are trying to incite violence, but we will not use violence. I am calling on the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to try to intervene in this matter before it gets out of control, said Ofkangbah, spokesman and General Supervisor for Gardnersville Brach of the motorcyclists Association.

Meanwhile, residents living in Gardnersville who ride between Red Light and Central Monrovia were constrained yesterday because yellow buses that carry most passengers did not run, and motorbikes that are also widely used during rush hours were being impounded.

Somalia Drive saw a very light traffic yesterday due to the absence of motorbikes. It can be recalled last September a motorcyclist was killed by a yellow bus near Iron Factory in Gardnersville.

Motorcyclists went on the rampage and yellow buses did not run the next day in protest against what they called blame shifting and constant attacks against yellow buses’ drivers by motorcyclists and citizens who are in sympathy with motorcyclists.

Yellow buses’ owners, according to sources, following the accident, went to Police Central to register their grievances for redress.

The sources said authorities at Police Central promised to look into the matter for a solution, but yellow buses’ drivers told people, authorities at Police Central were contemplating taking motorbikes off the main streets. That never happened.

Recently, the Liberian Red Cross published statistics on the accident rate in Liberia. The accident rate, according to Red Cross’s Superintendent David Sandy, the total number of accidents recorded from 2007 to July 2013 to 7,071, though no breakdowns were made relative to categories but said the alarming rate was blamed on the failures of drivers to driver to adhere to safety rules and methods in the traffic especially the motorcyclists.