NTUNGAMO - Three people, including a Rwandan, died on the spot yesterday when a Jaguar company bus crashed in Uganda’s southwestern district of Ntungamo.
Police said 21 other passengers sustained injuries and were admitted at Itojo Hospital in Ntungamo. By press time, eight of the injured who were in more critical condition had been transferred to Mbarara Hospital.
Jaguar company officials said that the early morning accident, which occurred at around 5.30a.m, happened when the Kanyaru-bound bus registration number UAG 110T encountered technical faults in the lighting system, forcing it to swerve off the highway.
The dead, according Ugandan police authorities, include one Rwandan, a Ugandan and a Kenyan.
Ntungamo District Police Commander David Balidawa, speaking by telephone yesterday, identified the deceased as Rosette Mukamuhirwa, a Rwandan, Aggrey Andrew (Kenyan) and Abdulatif Kyalimpa, a Ugandan.
“They died instantly,” Balidawa said.
Contrary to Jaguar officials’ version of the story, the Officer in Charge of Traffic in Rwanda National Police, Robert Niyonshuti, said that the driver – Joseph Kasozi – fell asleep, causing the fatal accident.
“The bus left Kampala for Kigali in the early hours of the morning, but along the way the driver dozed off and lost control of the vehicle,” Niyonshuti said yesterday.
However, Balidawa said investigations were underway to establish the cause of the accident. This one is a rude reminder of a series of fatal accidents Rwandans and Ugandans have had to endure in recent years especially during the year-end festive season at the hands of reckless drivers.
Balidawa said that bus accidents are common around the scene of yesterday’s accident. “That accident occurred early in the morning, and therefore not so many people were around to tell us what really happened. But we are recording statements from those that were in the bus to find out the actual cause,” he said. He said that the spot came into the limelight when a trailer overturned there early this year.
At Jaguar’s offices in Nyabugogo Bus and Taxi Park, several buses from Kampala arrived with survivors of the crash, some with minor injuries.
Meanwhile, our correspondent at Gatuna border post said yesterday that the Rwandan government had dispatched a team of six medical workers from Byumba Hospital to bolster their Ugandan counterparts at Itojo.
The accident has sparked panic among Rwandans who are already in traveling mood as Christmas approaches.
On December 27, 2006 a Jaguar bus collided with another vehicle killing one Rwandan lady. Following that particular accident, Rwandan authorities halted Jaguar bus operations until the company promised to put in place stringent measures to curb the accidents.
Earlier, on September 23, 2003, a Jaguar bus crashed in Kabale, southwestern Uganda killing at least 30 people, after it collided with a World Food Programme trailer.
The bus was carrying forty-seven passengers.
Niyonshuti said that Rwandan Police have on several occasions held meetings with Jaguar company officials urging them to respect traffic rules and have their drivers stop overspeeding and driving while drunk.
“We have also conducted regular monitoring and ensure drew up evaluation reports of their bus operations, but whenever their drivers are on the Ugandan side they break the rules,” the traffic police chief said.
Following last year’s Jaguar accident, Rwanda also issued stringent regulations for bus operators, including installation of speed governors, issuance of routine inspection certificates and obliged operators to designate a supervisor for each route to regular submit travel reports.
The rules were meant to enforce traffic discipline and reduce road accidents which have been common along the Rwanda-Uganda highway especially around Christmas and New Year’s season.
The buses were also ordered to limit their speed to 60 kilometres per hour whenever they are on the Rwandan soil. But in other regional countries including Uganda and Kenya, the speed is limited to 80km/hr.