Mrs. Ebobra Newman Ometan, 30 and members of her family comprising three boys and girl had fantastic plans for the Easter holidays until a dark cloud fell upon the hitherto happy family and things fell apart, leaving many unanswered questions.
Mrs Ometan, who hails from Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri-South West Area of Delta State and her husband are still in shock over the tragedy that befell them on Saturday 23, March, 2013. Indeed, that day will forever remain indelible and painful in their lives.
It all started as a bright Saturday morning. At about 10 am, Mrs. Ometan and her four kids - Master Wisdom,13 and a primary six pupil, Progress and his twin, Favour who were aged nine and in primary three and the kid sister, Promise, 6, who was in primary one as well as a cousin’s son, boarded a boat to convey them to Opuwede-Bubor.
Unfortunately, the boat capsized in the Warri River barely three minutes after take-off, leaving six children, including three of Ometan’s kids and an adult dead. On board the boat at the time of the accident, were five adults and 14 children. Mrs. Ometan was only able to rescue her son Favour and cousin’s son alive.
Another occupant of the boat who was identified as Mr. Victor Mala who had five kids in the boat, also lost three of them. He was only able to rescue two of the children alive. Another man identified as Mark Oleke, who recently got married also failed to survive the accident. But a woman who had two kids was however lucky as all of them survived the boat mishap.
When Vanguard Metro, VM, visited Mrs. Ometan at her Orhuwhorun Road residence on Sunday afternoon, the house was parked full with grief-stricken kinsmen who discussed the accident in hush tones. The couple, however, looked unconsolable as they wept profusely.
Indeed the atmosphere was heavy with the aura of sorrow as even the sun refused to shine though there was no sign of impending rain. This made it difficult to get Mrs. Ometan to narrate her bitter story. It took her elder sister, Mrs. Omare almost 20 minutes to convince Mrs. Ometan to speak to VM.
A painful accident:
Words may be inadequate to explain the pains the Ometans are going through as a result of the tragic loss of their three children in a twinkling of an eye. Their pain could, however, be felt from their mournful faces as relatives came to share in the irreparable loss.
Mrs. Ometan who spoke with a tremulous voice said: “Barely three minutes after we left the jetty in Marine Police area, the boat driver was about to launch into the main river from the backside of a vessel seized by the JTF.
It was a blind angle hence he did not know that another boat was coming near the arrested vessel. Suddenly, the boat ran across our boat and the heavy impact shattered our boat and it sank. One of the passengers, Mr. Victor Mala was hit in the upper arm.
The other boat was carrying only loads; there were no passengers. As our boat was shattered, everyone sank. (At this point Mrs. Ometan burst into uncontrollable wailing).
After about three minutes, she managed to continue. “All the children held unto me as they fought hard to escape drowning. I beckoned on driver of the boat which crushed ours for help, but he did not respond, apparently due to shock..
I held unto my small daughter as I struggled to remain afloat with all the children. They were drowning gradually because they couldn’t swim. Because I later became tired, the baby slipped out of my hand with the other two brothers. Only Favour and my cousin’s son that held on until a rescue boat came about five minutes later,” she said amidst increased wailing.
After another two minutes, Mrs. Ometan continued, “My husband wanted us to take the kids to Opuede-Bubor, I was taking them home for a three- week holiday with my mum. We have always traveled during the holidays. My husband who bade us safe journey, told me to call him when we arrived there.
I even called him to inform him that we had boarded. I had no premonition of what was going to happen. We were excited about the travel.”
Mrs. Ometan added, that her twins would have marked their birthday on April 10th. The deceased daughter, Promise was to mark hers on May 10th. “We were planning to go to church the following day if we get to the village, “she said.
Mrs Ometan who said she did not sustain an injury lamented: “I am still in shock ; I can’t speak. I have lost hope and had to cry all through the night”.
Mr. Ometan was able to add, “One of my friends, Mr. Omawe called me at about 11 am that my family were involved in a boat mishap, i now rushed to Aladja waterside to pick a boat, the incident occured at about 10am. I found my wife and son but I lost my two senior sons and only daughter, i put everything in the hands of God.”
One hopes that like Job in the Bible, God should restore the Ometan’s loss and the fortitude to bear the great loss.