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DateLine Sunday, 16 March 2008

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Road to dusty death

Accident at Athuruwella - stark reminder of danger on the highways:

The horrible road accident that occurred at the Athuruwella bridge Bentota last week killing eight persons was a shocking revelation of how hazardous our highways have become these days.

It shows the reckless driving patterns of our present day chauffeurs who drive under the influence of liquor. It shows the callous attitude of motorists speeding on highways without any respect for other users.

Motorists perhaps may have noticed a common slogan displayed at police stations which reads as “Speed thrills but kills.” But ironically how many of our motorists adhere to such advice.

The highways today have become veritable death zones due to speeding under influence of liquor. The highways have also become race tracks for motorists for obvious reasons.

The tragic accident which occurred last Saturday at the Athuruwella bridge around 5.30. p.m. was a stark reminder of impending danger on highways. The accident was a result of head on collision of a van with a private a bus at a bend.

The van driven at excessive speed had ploughed into the bus travelling towards Ambalangoda that killed eight persons in the van and injuring scores of people travelling in the bus.

OIC Bentota Police Station, Inspector Duminda Rajapakse told the Sunday Observer how a person in the van escaped while being seated in the front seat while eight persons including a child and the driver became victims of the accident.

He said the van driver who travelled at break neck speed towards Colombo had failed to negotiate the bend at the Athuruwella bridge and had rammed his vehicle to the on coming bus.

“The van driver was most probably driving under the influence of liquor. He was responsible for the tragic deaths.” He said the bus driver was helpless when the van travelling at high speed ploughed into his vehicle.”

The OIC further said four members of the same family died with four other person in the van also died. The deceased of the ill fated van was identified as B. Jayanethi (50) his brother S. Jayanethi, Sujith Chintaka (17) Ananda Saman (50) Gihan Nayanajith (19) Himesh Chaturanga (10) and Anton Fernando (24). The eighth person succumbed to his injuries last Wednesday.

Several residents of the area flocked to the scene to get a glimpse of the ghastly accident after hearing the tragic news. Nineteen passengers who travelled in the private bus also sustained grievous injuries and were admitted to Balapitiya, Nagoda and the Bentota hospitals.

Some of them were transferred to the Colombo National Hospital as their condition was serious. However according to police most persons have been discharged from hospitals. The tragedy occurred on Saturday evening around 5.30.p.m. when four persons of the same family together with friends travelled to Induruwa in a van to attend a funeral.

When they subsequently discovered the remains had been removed to the Induruwa cemetery for internment they sped in the vehicle to the cemetery to mark their presence. The mishap took place while they were on their way to the cemetery.

Two brothers of the same family and a child aged 10 died in the deadly crash. One of the deceased brothers had been an administrative officer in a private company at Athidiya, Ratmalana. They had all gone to Induruwa that day to attend a funeral of their bosses relative. The autopsy examination report says that all eight persons had died due to excessive haemorrhage.

A few months ago a car driven at excessive speed along the Old Kottawa road veered off the road and ploughed into a SLCTB bus parked at the entrance to the Udahamulle SLTB depot road, Nugegoda, killing its driver and critically injuring a passenger seated behind. Another passenger who was seated in the front seat escaped without injuries.

According to OIC Traffic Mirihana Police, Sub Inspector R.K. Ratnasinghe the accident had occurred around 3.45 a.m. on a Saturday, while the car was travelling from Nugegoda towards Maharagama. The deceased was identified later as one Terrance Seneviratne (23) an employee of a private company.

The critically injured person was admitted to the National Hospital Colombo. Inspector Ratnasinghe said the Toyota vehicle was a complete wreck following the accident with its hood ripped off. The impact was so severe that a 7000 ton SLCTB parked bus was pushed several feet away. Speeding was the main reason for the accident, the OIC said.

Last year a popular film and television actress’s car collided head on with a on coming passenger bus critically injuring the film actress on Colombo - Kandy road at Imbulgoda junction. The actress who sustained grievous bodily injuries was rushed to the Ragama hospital and was later transferred to the Incentive Care Unit (ICU).

The accident occurred at Balummahara on March 14 around 5.30 when she was rushing to Kurunegala from Colombo for a Television filming event. Her car was reduced to matchwood following the accident.

However her chauffeur escaped miraculously with minor injuries. Police said her chauffeur was at fault for driving the vehicle at an excessive speed. Fortunately the actress recovered after undergoing treatment for several months at the Colombo National Hospital.

It had been found the temptation to speed occurs when people are under the influence of liquor. Modern vehicles driven at high speeds have also become lethal weapons in the hands of drunken and reckless drivers.

How many innocent pedestrians would have been killed this year due to drunken and hit and run drivers? The statistics are frightening indeed. According to traffic police motorists too have become an impatient lot due to several pressures.

“Every one seemed to be in a mighty hurry to get to their destination breaking all traffic rules and regulations,” he said. A Senior police officer attributed fatal motor accidents to high excessive speeding and reckless driving. He said it also happens when motorists do not obey traffic rules and regulations. Consumption of liquor and negligence are to be blamed,” he said.

jj@sundayobserver.lk

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