Link Bus crash: A tale of tears, wails and blood spill

The wreckage of Link Bus that was involved in a fatal accident yesterday is towed away. Photo / Alex Ashaba

What you need to know:

  • The passengers, those who boarded at a terminal in the tourism city, had been on the bus for about 15 minutes. And they were roughly a dozen kilometres in motion.

Carnage. This is how onlookers and police described yesterday’s Link Bus crash outside Fort Portal city that claimed at least 20 lives.

The passengers, those who boarded at a terminal in the tourism city, had been on the bus for about 15 minutes. And they were roughly a dozen kilometres in motion.

As the green bus hurtled down the highway, merging in colour with the vast tea plantations, portions of which raced backwards, the least expected happened to blind the enviable view.

For what is now a matter of police inquiries, the driver, who perished on the spot, failed to negotiate a corner that regular travellers on the route call a black spot.

He smashed the bus into the guardrails, the fully-loaded bus careered and plunged into a tea leaves collection centre building before it ploughed through and overturned multiple times several metres into the tea plantation.

Travellers on the road screamed in horror as did plantation workers. Shortly after the deafening bang, bang and bang, wails of deep pain began to echo.

Some a shrill cry for help, made more urgent by sight of dead bodies tossed out of the bus. The injured were many and fresh blood ran on the metal frames and on uprooted tea plants.

The glass fits shaping the upper body of the bus were all smashed, exposing collapsed seats or their twisted frames.

Dozens were trapped in the mangled bus frame, and desperately pleaded to no one in particular to save them. “I’m dying, help!” could be heard from different passengers.

Indeed, first responders used anything, including axes and bare hands, to cut, pull and rescue casualties.

Bodies removed from the wreckage were laid in the open, stripping the victims, who hours earlier carried honour for their works, of dignity.

Among them were health workers, three members from the same family and associates of Tooro palace officials.

But the title didn’t matter. Some of the survivors, badly injured, were placed under seats on the back of police pickup trucks, exposing open and fresh wounds to possible infection from the dirty surface.

Crash site

Back at the crash site, pieces of human flesh were visible. Uneven shoes and shredded clothes, as well as luggage, were strewn metres apart.

It was a gory accident, a dreadful sight. Still, Uganda Red Cross Society and local volunteers did whatever was possible to search and rescue.  Luggage removed from the bus was piled at one location.

The injured survivors were evacuated to Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital on the back of police and private pick-ups and by ambulances offered by Red Cross, the regional hospital, the City Woman Member of Parliament Linda Mugisa, government health outfit Gemdic, and another private health facility.  

Mr Yassin Kisembo waved down the bus in Fort Portal City, but it bypassed him. Then he jumped into the taxi, which was two cars behind the bus. When he heard the thud, and shortly after saw the bus crashing into the plantation, he felt both relief that he survived, but pain at the loss of lives.  

At the hospital, UPDF joined overwhelmed health workers to treat the victims and enforce order.

Crestfallen relatives visited the facility and many huddled at the mortuary for reports of post-mortem of deceased relatives. Desperate could be seen attempting to the windows of the morgue.

One senior nurse reported a stockout of emergency supplies as she, alongside colleagues, raced against time to save lives threatened by a crash that has turned the worst in the nearly two-decade history of Link Bus company.