Three crashes and 30 deaths later, a new black spot is born

The wreckage of taxi that was involved in an accident recently on Fort Portal road.  PHOTO / ALEX ASHABA

What you need to know:

  • While Wednesday’s accident involving one of Link Bus’s 90-strong fleet vastly increased the death toll, there is no question about the stretch’s new-found status as an accident black spot.

Three separate motor accidents on the 103-kilometre stretch from Fort Portal to Kyegegwa District since last November have claimed 30 lives and left scores injured.

While Wednesday’s accident involving one of Link Bus’ 90-strong fleet vastly increased the death toll, there is no question about the stretch’s new-found status as an accident black spot.

To underline this grim status, barely minutes after news of the 20-odd deaths from the bus crash at the tea estate in Ssebitoli was being processed, another accident took centre-stage 55 kilometres away in Kakabara. Whereas no deaths were reported, 16 people were left nursing serious injuries.

Last November, a road crash a stone’s throw away from Kibuye Trading Centre in Kyegegwa (Kyegegwa-Mubende road) claimed five lives.

 In January, a head-on collision at Kiregesa village, three kilometres from Kyenjojo Town, left a trail of destruction that included four deaths.

The 103-kilometre stretch is newly tarmacked and was commissioned in 2020. Passengers get to see sweeping lawns and landscaped vistas whilst using the road that also has an extension of 53 kilometres to Kyegegwa Town.

The road snakes into the lush greenery and cultivated fields of tea estates in Kyenjojo and Kabarole districts. Part of Kibale National Park also comes into one’s view.

The road’s windings—specifically the steep descents—always seem to tempt petrol heads into stepping on the gas pedal. The stretch after Kaswa Trading Centre up to Ssebitoli where Hassan Sempala lost control of the bus  on Wednesday—taking his and 20 other lives—has a hairpin corner and steep slope.

Junior Works and Transport minister Mr Musa Ecweru said this past week that the investigation into the accident at Ssebitoli will not be “a simple one.”

“The frequency of road accidents is becoming worrisome and now the government wants us (Works and Transport ministry) to come up with an explanation [as to] why there are more accidents,” Mr Ecweru said before expressing dismay at the fact that most accidents are panning out on freshly tarmacked roads.

On Thursday, the government dispatched a team of investigators to probe the fatal Link Bus road crash. The team is led by the Director of Traffic Police, Mr Lawrence Niwabiine, officials from Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), forensic experts, road crash investigators and experts from highway investigations.

The increased cases of fatal road crashes along the 103-kilometre stretch continually leave health facilities in the area coming apart at the seams. As seen this past week, most of them are not equipped with enough supplies, personnel to handle a deluge of accident victims. They also don’t have enough ambulances to evacuate victims from the scene.

Dr Martin Yefta told Saturday Monitor that Kyegegwa Hospital always finds itself at full strain when fatal accidents blip on the radar. Most of the victims in Wednesday’s accident were referred to Mubende Regional Referral Hospital after Kyegegwa Hospital found itself straining under the weight of a heavy caseload.

From Fort Portal to Kyegegwa District, one can count three main health facilities. These include hospitals Kyenjojo and Kyegegwa  as well as Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital. Mr Bruce Rwampunda, the former hospital administrator at Kyenjojo Hospital, says it lacks a casualty ward.

This usually sees—as has been the case this past week—emergency cases mix with other patients in the general ward.

To compound matters, all health facilities in the entire region don’t have a CT scan to help ascertain the gravity of head injuries. Ms Joyce Munakenya, a senior nursing officer in charge of the surgical ward at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital, said when they refer road crash victims who need specialised treatment to Kampala.

“When we get them, we refer them; which increases the bill on the side of the patient,” she said, adding that two victims in Wednesday’s road crash needed CT scans and were referred to Mulago national referral and Mbarara regional referral hospitals.