A serious dive search is ongoing down the St. John River between Bong and Nimba Counties to recover four bodies expected to be anywhere downstream following a motorcycle accident on Saturday, May 31.
The victims, who are yet to be named, were reportedly heading from Beinaykpala Town in Nimba County to a town in Bong to attend a feast in memory of a deceased family member, when they themselves became deceased.
According to a man identified as Nyan Geh, the four persons along with a hog, were on the motorbike rolling into the narrow bridge linking Zahn Duoh and Bong County when the rider lost control and everything on the bike dropped into the river.
Nyan Geh: “I was going to the farm when I saw the motorbike with four persons and a hog on it. The rider got on the bridge by force, and I could see him fighting to control it. But as they went further, he lost control and I saw the bike laying one side with all the people with the hog falling into the river. It was at this point I ran back to town to inform people about what had happened.”
Morris Weegon, chairperson of the community watch team in Duoh told the Daily Observer on Sunday, June 1, that three of the victims were family members — a husband, wife and son along with the rider.
Mr. Weegon said they were yet to get the full names of the drowned victims, but confirmed that they were traveling to Bong County to attend feast for a deceased family.
“We got the information late Saturday afternoon, and quickly we contacted divers to get into the river to search for the corpses and the bike. Since 4 p.m. yesterday, we have not touched any of the bodies or the bike,” Mr. Weegon said.
The river is rising as a result of heavy rainfall, and the water current has become very strong. During the stay of our reporter on the scene, divers were finding it difficult to search as the current would forcibly draw them down to the meander.
However, early Monday morning, June 2, sources hinted to this paper that two of the bodies had been recovered.
The bridge from which the bike fell is built with nailed planks and pointing steel. It does not have a protective iron or rail to stop travellers or objects from falling into the river.
As a result of the danger posed by this narrow bridge, couple with damaged road condition, residents of Zahn Duoh recently demonstrated against ArcelorMittal’s operation in Nimba, blocking the rail and preventing trains from carrying ore to Buchanan from Nimba.
The residents demanded that ArcelorMittal build the bridge and rehabilitate the road.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer on May 1, former lawmaker Jackson Fiidor said the accident is a wakeup call for the government and ArcelorMittal to give attention to the bridge since calls by citizens could not be given consideration.
According to the former Nimba lawmaker, building the bridge and rehabilitation of the road from Constance’s farm to St. John are contained in the mineral agreement between Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal.
“During my stay in the Legislature, it was agreed that ArcelorMittal upon shipping iron ore, should build the bridge and rehabilitate the road, but since it started shipping iron ore in 2011, there has not been any sign of fixing this bridge,” Mr. Fiidor said.
However, Mr. Fiidor said after the demonstration about a week ago, they saw some Chinese carrying on feasibility studies on the bridge which signifies that work is soon to begin on it.