They were three young and promising lads who went out to play a friendly game in honour of their mutual friend who was celebrating his birthday. They didn’t live to tell the story of the game. Stanley Onyekwere and Morufat Ojulari report: In what appears to be a continuation of the widespread baptism of devastating natural disasters raging across the country, a mysterious thunder strike has devoured three local football stars in Karmo, a suburb of Abuja.
The deceased persons were playing a testimonial match on a field popularly called ‘favour field’ located within an open space which reportedly belongs to the Emir of Kano.
The match was meant to honour an undisclosed friend of theirs, who was celebrating his birthday, when the thunder stroke leaving all of them, numbering about fifty including spectators unconscious, only for them to regain consciousness five minutes later.
Emmanuel Ayanwu, 22, Joseph Ushe, 20 were killed instantly while Abdullahi Bello, 22, gave up the ghost at the entrance of Gwarinpa General Hospital where he was rushed for treatment.
Peoples Daily Weekend gathered that the deceased persons including most of the affected persons were members of the Golden Star FC and Sampolo FC, both of the area, who were the two teams engaged in the match when the incident happened.
While late Emmanuel and Joseph were members of the Golden Star FC, late Abdullahi played for Samdora FC.
One of the survivors, Adebayo Ilesanmi, who is the coach of Golden Star FC, gave an account of the incident, saying they were all out for a friendly match which doubled as training with Sampolo FC, before the thunder stormed, ‘that was the only thing I could remember.”
“The incident happened around 5:30 when we were on the field playing a friendly match for one of us who was celebrating his birthday; it wasn’t long we started that we noticed a drizzling at that time, and sudden the thunder struck, and immediately we fainted.”
He continued: “Only for us to regain consciousness later and find the lifeless bodies of three of my boys on the ground; two of them were severely burnt beyond recognition while the other one appeared untouched. The space of time between when the thunder struck and when we recovered from the shock was about five minutes.”
According to him, after gaining composure to check what has happened, he noticed smoke escaping from late Emmanuel’s body, and when he got closer, he saw smoke bursting out of his chest like a release of gas.
Adebayo told Peoples Daily Weekend how the badly burnt remains of the deceased were immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, which referred them to Gwarinpa General Hospital, in Life camp, for treatment,
He said the hospital declined accepting them and attending to them unless they get a police report.
“After failed attempts to resuscitate the deceased persons by a few of us who survived the ravaging thunder, we decided to take the remains of the affected persons to a nearby hospital. And when we got to the hospital they asked us to first get a police report before they could attend to us. And before we returned from the Life camp police station, the victims were confirmed dead.
“It was when we came back with a policeman that our worst fear was confirmed as we were told the victims were dead already”.
When asked if they sensed that the deceased persons were still alive by the time they were taken to the hospital, he said they couldn’t tell because at that time many of them who managed to escape death by the whisker were still in shock and barely conscious to be able to understand the true state of things.
Also he said it was later, that they discovered that another person had sustained injury on the head, before he was admitted at a nearby hospital, before the relatives came and transferred the fourth victim to an undisclosed private hospital for proper treatment.
The coach, who is still in shock, also recalled how the thunder lifted him off the ground and hugged him on top of a nearby tree, saying it was a friend who woke him up and helped him descend down from the tree.
On whether such devastating thunder strike had happened in the past on that pitch, he said it was the first time as the place was used for school prior to the demolition exercise by the FCTA.
“I believe people have been using the field for football training and matches after the demolition exercise. So I’m seriously surprised by the unfortunate incident. They are my boys and I have been coaching them since February, 1995”, he said.
Narrating his ordeal, the father of one of the deceased, Mallam Sarki Bello, who was still mourning his loss, said the incident was a surprise because he has never heard or seen such occurrence since his birth.
The bereaved father who is also an adviser to the Chief of Karmo, disclosed that the land within which the field is located belongs to the Emir of Kano who commissioned the land in the year 2010, to pave way for construction work to commence there.
Corroborating the account given by the coach, the father said he received news of the incident, when one of the victims came around the house shouting and calling his late son’s name: who immediately broke the news when he was able to calm the man down. And before I could get
to the scene, the four victims have been rushed to the hospital, where three of them including my son, Abdullahi were pronounced dead.
“We got to know that two of the victims who got burnt from the attack died on the spot while my son gave up the ghost in the hospital,” he said.
In what appears as a submission to the will of Allah, the father said he has accepted his son’s demise in good faith, according to him: “If there was something I could do to bring him back I would have done that but there is nothing I can do, I pray that God should stop such occurrence in future.”
Prior to his death in the incident, late Abdullahi had obtained his Senior Secondary School Certificate and wrote UTME, hoping to gain admission into a tertiary institution to study Business Administration.
To save money to support his parents pay for his education, he worked as a newspaper vendor at Karmo last gate while awaiting his admission.
On his part, Yakubu Bello, the elder brother to late Abdullahi, described his late brother as a very understanding person who he still can’t believe has left him to the great beyond.
He said his late brother was buried the same day at about 10:00pm according to Islamic rites.
“Abdullahi apart from having a great passion for education as a vehicle to achieving his dreams in life, had an ambition to become a football superstar.”
Most people living in the area told Peoples Daily Weekend that the incident would for a long time remain fresh in their minds as the scene of the incident being a field would always remind residents of the horrific and terrifying venom of the thunder which threw the entire place into mourning mood.
Late Joseph was the first child of his parents, who hail from Cross River state. He was described by a neighbour as a friendly child who was easy going.
He had just recently finished his O’ level exams after completing his secondary education this year.
Late Joseph’s neighbour, Mrs. Lucy Oko, who told our reporters that the deceased had earlier in the day helped in looking after her child while she was away in the market, could not believe what happened to him.
It was when I returned from the market that Joseph left the house for the field after he was briefed about the testimonial by his friends; only for us to receive the sad news of his death.
She said the report they got from the people who survived the incident was that when the thunder came like a fire, everyone around the field fell and lost consciousness only to find Joseph with two others on the floor burnt.
She added: “His corpse was taken to his hometown on Saturday for burial but his parents are yet to be back from their state.
The third victim, Emmanuel, who we gathered just gained admission to study Microbiology in Nasarawa state University, was supposed to resume academics in October.
Recalling the last discussion she had with her child before he was taken away by the hand of death, the deceased mother, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Anyanwu, said he just finished preparing his meal when his friend came to call him out for the game.
Emmako as the he was fondly called was said to have gone to the field on this ill-fated day with the mindset of going to play with a friend of his whose birthday it was and to also train for the match holding the following day.
“I told him to eat his food before going to play but he refused, saying he won’t be able to play well if he ate and he covered the food, only for me to hear that he was dead”, she revealed.
Lamenting her loss, she said: “I knew he would have done a lot of things if he was to stay alive but this has dashed every hope of whatever plan we have.”
She however disclosed that the remains of Late Emmanuel had been laid to rest in his home town in Imo state.