I just survived a bus crash in Rwanda…
It all happened in a few seconds. The driver was going too fast around a corner, and the bus tipped over onto its side, smashing into the road, and skidding along the tarmac. It was all happening in silent slow motion, as i repeated to myself “I’m still alive” as the bus lurched closer the ground, but I fully expected to die.
As I emerged from the wreckage through the front window of the bus, the aftermath of the crash was chaotic. The police arrived quickly as we were near the Ugandan border, but there was no leadership, and they were mostly idle. There was no rescue operation at all, and the people who’d just been in the crash had to improvise, using branches and car jacks to try and lift the bus to release those who were trapped inside. As a child brought a branch to the scene, another man stood helplessly with an angle grinder, but with nowhere to plug it in. The sense of companionship was beautiful but heart wrenching to watch. Sadly, not everyone made it out alive. A faster and better response would have saved lives.
One victim was a young girl, crushed by the bus (on the same side i was on), her brother was inconsolable, and it was painful to witness his grief and also very traumatic to see her young lifeless body, as other screams for help echoed around the scene. I felt pretty hopeless until that point, when i realised that perhaps I had duty to the victims and their families to try and seek justice for them, to hold those responsible accountable for their negligence and to try to prevent such tragedies from happening again. That’s why i’m writing this blog – and to see if anyone can help.
The Trinity Express Bus bus was old, poorly maintained, and driven recklessly by the driver. He was going too fast around a corner when the bus tipped over and crashed. The bus driver, who had already run over a dog just 15 minutes before the crash, fled the scene, leaving his passengers to fend for themselves. The police were not communicating with the victims or witnesses to the crime, and it was left to us to approach them to give our details. The feeling amongst those who could understand the dialogue was that senior police and officials were more concerned about controlling the narrative and covering up the incident than about justice for the victims.
Tragically road accidents, and especially involving badly driven buses are commonplace in East Africa. In 2003, over 50 people, mostly children died in a similar incident – also near the Rwanda border, and also caused by a bus driver speeding and losing control of the bus. At the time, alarms were raised about the poor training of drivers, and policing of the roads, but whilst action was promised, 20 years later, very little has been done, and sadly these tragedies will keep repeating themselves until something dramatic changes.
This blog is of course a drop in the ocean, but maybe if enough and if the right people read it, and want to help, then together we could try to ensure that justice is served, and changes are made to stop another tragedy like this happening again.
Please email me if you have any ideas on how to move this forward: firstname.lastname@example.org or perhaps make a comment below?
It is sad that we still have people with negligence.such a traumatizing experience I’m sorry.may the victim souls rest in peace and may their family find justice.
What an appalling experience for all concerned.
I regularly travel by bus all over East Africa and only use the best-known companies, but even they have an erratic safety record…
I have a contact at a digital ticketing company who may have an idea on how you can follow this up.
Thank you very much charlotte. Please do make the intro, I’d love to talk to them. Have you done a blog on how to ensure you find the most reputable buses? That would be pretty handy?!