THE mangled remains of the charred Honda CR-V and the Nissan Caravan seemingly intertwined in a macabre dance depicting a scene from a horror movie.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
The roadside scene is a constant reminder of the fateful day when 11 people were burnt to death in a horrific accident which left the whole community along the Mvurwi-Centenary road shocked.
In the Honda CR-V were four passengers, who included police officers identified as Nehwangura (officer-in-charge Centenary), Mashona, Zenda and a murder and rape suspect, who had allegedly attacked and raped an 83-year-old woman, who later succumbed to her wounds.
The officers were taking the suspect from Bindura to Centenary for indications.
It has also been alleged that at the time of the crime, the now-late woman was on a sick bed with a urinary catheter on.
A urinary catheter is a flexible tube used to empty the bladder and collect urine in a drainage bag.
Although it has been more than a week, the smell of burning, melting flesh and piercing screams is still vivid and fresh in the minds of those who were unfortunate enough to witness the tragedy.
Last Friday, the mood was still very dark as many tried to understand the misfortune, with wild theories fuelling the conversations held under hushed tones in various households.
Despite the gentle breeze of approaching nightfall, the community is not soothed by its charm; the ghost of the fateful day still hangs low it is almost palpable.
Witnesses to the accident, who include journalists who were coming from an event, said the heartbreaking cries of the trapped passengers were the worst.
“We could not help much because both vehicles immediately caught fire after collision. The orange ball of fire was just too intense,” one of the witnesses, who still has nightmares of the disaster, said.
“I cannot sleep well at night without hearing those helpless people crying. The worst was not being able to do anything,” another female witness said.
She said she saw through the window of the Nissan Caravan a woman whose neck was twisted in way that suggested she may have been dead already.
“But what caught my attention was her child, who was still alive at the time, but the flames were getting worse,” she recalls.
“I cried as I stood there watching helplessly as the vehicle became engulfed with fierce flames that licked everything in their path. I could feel the heat singe the hairs on my fore arms,” she shivered as she recalled.
During an United Nations Population Fund event at Dambakurima Primay School, a kilometres away from the scene, last Friday, the mood was sombre, as the community in Muzarabani district grappled to understand what happened and how 11 people could just perish in such a painful way.
Addressing the gathering after observing a minute of silence in memory of the departed, Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development minister Nyasha Chikwinya expressed grief at the needless deaths of so many people.
“It is a sad day indeed for us as a nation. We keep losing people on our roads and hugely, because of human error. How can one remove a catheter and proceed to rape a defenceless old woman? It is unacceptable,” she said.
Although the actual details of what exactly happened can never be verified, members of the community and witnesses maintain that the driver of the Honda CR-V was speeding and lost control when he approached the curve.
He encroached into the lane of the oncoming Nissan Caravan which was carrying 21 passengers at the time.
Others, however, speculated on whether the suspect made a grab for the steering wheel in a suicide bid or during a heated argument.
But what is very clear is that the incident will be talked about for a long time. It also exposed weak disaster preparedness in terms of responding to disasters of this nature.
Zimbabwe has a severe shortage of ambulances, a situation which stakeholders have said compromises quality of health services.
Although Mvurwi District Hospital is less than 15km from the spot of the accident, it took long for the single ambulance to arrive at the scene.