The helmet saved her from getting grave head injuries but she sustained a fracture and was bleeding. The taxi-moto rider sustained minor injuries while the driver of the car came out unscathed. As Rose lay on the ground visibly in pain and bleeding, you would have expected the driver of the car involved in the accident or a Good Samaritan to rush her to hospital, but this was not the case. People instead gathered around the accident scene as they waited for Police to come and establish who was in the wrong. Fortunately Police came in time and Rose was rushed to hospital and her life was saved just in time.
This is common at accident scenes in Kigali city, where you find a crowd of unbothered people surrounding a bleeding or unconscious accident victim. Why do onlookers act indifferent to accident victims even in cases where a person needs urgent help to save their life?
“I was on my way to work and found a lady lying on the roadside bleeding surrounded by taxi-motto riders, my pleas to rush her to hospital fell on deaf ears as the mob insisted it was an accident scene which can’t be tempered with before Police arrives,” says Joseph Bigabo a Kigali based businessman.
Paul (not real name) had a similar encounter. His journey back home from a business trip in Muhanga was cut short when a loud bang on his car made his brakes go screeching, he had knocked someone.
Panic set in and with sweaty palms he fumbled to open the door, Paul, still in a complete daze struggled to reach out to the victim.
“I killed him, were the only words replaying on my mind, but I managed to catch my breath when I realised the man still had a pulse. Scared, my first thought was taking off but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving a fellow man lying cold on the road,” he narrates.
People gathered, some threatening him while others told him not to dare move the victim till the Police arrived, and amidst the commotion the victim was profusely bleeding, he recalls.
“I was scared for both his and my life but the Police finally came and everything was handled, that’s a day I will never forget in my life,” Paul recalls.
Several measures have been taken to curb road accidents, but what is most worrying is that at most accident scenes priority is given to waiting for Police instead of saving life.
According to statistics from Rwanda National Police, in 2015, 1167 cases of road accidents were recorded and out of these, 667 victims lost their lives while 938 people were seriously injured. This year 737 cases have so far been recorded, leaving 447 people dead and 374 seriously injured.
Solange Iradukunda, a resident of Remera says that people are more than willing to help at accident scenes only that they have fear of being taken as suspects especially if they take the victims to the hospital.
“Some people fear to be investigated over something where they just volunteered to help, I wish the Police could make this whole process simpler, this way more lives of victims can be saved because people will be willing to help without fear of being turned into suspects,” she says.
But for Alice Ujeneza, a resident of Kimironko, people today have become selfish and care less about other people’s lives arguing that if it wasn’t the case people would stop minding about recording videos and photos of accident victims and concentrate on helping to save lives.
“An accident happens and in a few minutes it’s all over social media, people are more focused on being the first to share photos of a tragic incident instead of actually helping, this should change,” Ujeneza says.
Police speaks out
However, Police has allayed fears linked to accident victims adding that saving lives at the scene of the accidents is more crucial than anything else.
Chief Inspector Emmanuel Kabanda the Spokesperson of the department of traffic and road safety at the Rwanda National Police says that the notion that a victim cannot be taken to the hospital before the Police arrives isn’t true because what matters most is saving lives and there is no crime in that.
“It’s always advisable to call us immediately after an accident but if the victims are in critical condition one can always rush them to the hospital, and again it’s better to call an ambulance because using a regular car could in some way aggravate the victim’s condition,” Kabanda notes.
He explains that, when Police receives a call that there has been an accident, immediately officers are dispatched to the scene and before the Police does anything, saving lives of the victims is priroty and investigations kick in later.
According to Police, in case of an accident, people on the scene are required to call the Police on a toll free number 113, help protect the scene and in case of injured victims, call an ambulance.
Hospitals speak out
While talk is that medical facilities are usually hesitant to receive accident victims dropped by ‘good Samaritans’ usually believed to be the key suspects, some of the hospitals we visited declined taking such measures.
Dr Steve Shyaka the head of department, Accident and Emergency at King Faisal hospital says that people shouldn’t refrain from helping accident victims in fear of being treated as suspects.
He explains that it’s as simple as just dropping the victim at the hospital and continuing with your journey, nothing else.
“In this hospital, we don’t give good Samaritans a hard time and never take them as suspects, though it’s always easier when victims are brought in by relatives as it helps with identification and follow up because if the patient is in critical condition, we may need consent for surgery,” says Dr Shyaka.
He advises that a little bit of first aid at the scene can help save lives; this is why people are called upon to get some life saving skills. For instance in case of bleeding one can tie the bleeding part tightly, people also need to be courageous and donate blood because one minute spared to donate blood can be enough to save someone’s life.
What should be the priority when an accident happens?
I think the Ministry of Health and other institutions should take the initiative to sensitize the public on First Aid. This could really save a life. Every time an accident happens, people are there, and some pull over to help, but in most cases, they have no idea about First Aid. This of course means that the injured person has to wait for the Police and ambulance. Through media platforms, seminars and workshops, people can be educated on making a difference after an accident, rather than just staring at the scene in shock.
Alloys Twizeyimana, electrician
Accidents attract many people, and I find it odd that people have developed a culture of just staring at the victims, arguing about who was in the wrong. People tend to ignore the most important thing when it comes to accidents- saving lives. This can only be done through applying First Aid, or rushing the injured to the hospital. I think the public should make one’s life a priority and leave the authorities to handle the cause of the accident and who was in the wrong.
Gad Tuyishimire, student
The priority after an accident should be rushing the victims, especially the badly injured ones, to the hospital so that they can be quickly attended to. It has become a tradition, but a bad one in this case, where after an accident, people wait for the Police to arrive to determine who caused the accident, ignoring the people whose lives are at stake. People need to put in mind that property, and other possessions that may be destroyed in an accident, can be replaced or fixed, but a person’s life can never be regained once lost. The priority should be getting medical assistance as quickly as possible.
Frank Kayitare, student
When an accident happens, the Police should give the injured First Aid, so that by the time they investigate who was wrong, or what caused the accident, a person’s life is not in danger. Also, the medical team should be quick enough when getting to the scene of the accident, with the right equipment at hand to help till they get to a hospital. Also, mass sensitisation on accidents and road safety should be given priority, so that every person understands the value of emergency, and First Aid.
Ramis Munezero, mechanic