Death toll in PH stampede tragedy rises to 33


* How tragedy occurred and why many died – father of dead boy recounts how son crushed within finger tips·      As Rivers police confirms 31 deaths in Port Harcourt stampede, order organization to work with police on crowd control at events* 31 brought in dead, two more die in bed – hospital source

·Sorting of bodies continues at the Military mortuary on Aba Road

By Ignatius ChukwuTwo more persons are said to have died while on admission at the Military Hospital near the venue of the stampede tragedy in Port Harcourt on Saturday, May 28, 2022.
A hospital source said 31 were brought in dead (BID) while two just died on admission out of the seven very critical cases brought in.
Now, a young father who is one of the survivors has opened up on how the stampede occurred and why many died.

The father, Mr Samuel Orji from Abia State, has recounted how he survived the incident and how his son was crushed just finger tips away.

Recounting his ordeal at the military Hospital in on Aba Road in Port Saturday evening, Orji blamed crowd control failures for the tragedy.

He said the authorities at the Polo Club in GRA 2 did not open the gate early, causing huge crowd outside, such that the moment the gates were flung open, the surge proved fatal.

Orji told newsmen that people heard of the promoted church event where food stuff and other items were to be shared by the Kings’ Assembly church with venue of the crusade to be at Polo Club in GRA 2.

He said they had expected the gates to be open so people could move into the expansive grounds as they arrive, but the gates were rather locked.

Sources have said many persons came overnight while most others came as early as 2am in the night.

Orji said cars blocked the major road leading the venue as there was no way for people to pass.

He said the moment the gate was thrown open, huge surge occurred. “I carried my daughter on my shoulder while my son was ahead of me. When the push came from behind, we all fell to the ground.”

He said he battled to save himself as many feet climbed him steadily. “I managed to save my daughter, but as I tried to touch my son ahead, it was impossible to get hold of him. That is how I met him dead.”

He has called on the government and the church to give him justice, though he did not state in what the form justice should be given to him.

By the time BusinessDay got to the venue, only stern-looking police team in camouflage was stationed at the gates in an unmarked car.

At the Military mortuary, about 20 corpses were dumped at one room waiting for identification. Relations were sobbing and searching.

Confirming the incident, the Rivers State police command said through a statement by the public relations officer (PPRO), Grace Iringe-Koko ( deputy superintendent), that the Commissioner of police, Friday Eboka, had ordered for full investigations.

She stated thus: “The Rivers State Police Command wishes to inform the general public that the stampede that occurred at Polo Club, Tombia Street, Port Harcourt, River State, has been brought under control and normalcy restored to the area.

“Preliminary investigations conducted by the Command have however revealed that the unfortunate incident occured when the management of Kings Church Assembly organized a crusade which attracted mammoth crowd. It further revealed that there were plans by the church management to give away food and gift items to the less privilege. Unfortunately, the crowd became tumultuous and uncontrollable and all efforts made by the organizers to bring sanity proved abortive hence, the stampede.

“On receipt of the information, the Commissioner of Police immediately drafted adequate police patrol teams to the scene and they were able to restore normalcy. Persons that were injured were swiftly evacuated to the Hospital for immediate medical treatment. Unfortunately, a total of 31 persons lost their lives in the stampede.”

She said the situation has been brought under control and enough police presence has been put on ground to work with the Command’s safety management officers

“The Commissioner of Police has called on religious and charity organizations to ensure they work with the Police for security and crowd control management in organizing their programmes in the future.”

Each time mass death occurred at such centres, the cause had always been that gates were closed and opened in one swoop, permitting surge. This killed 16 persons at the liberation stadium during Goodluck Jonathan campaign in 2011;it also killed 16 persons at the new stadium on Airport Road in 2019. Now, as another election draws near, 31 has been killed.