Widow’s only child in brush with death

Widow’s only child in brush with death

“Have you heard the news?” the eldest of them, a boy, asked me. “No,” I said. “Hillal has had an accident.” The unfortunate young man’s name was Hillary Elibariki Macha, but they mispronounced his Hillary name as Hillal.  Hillary was the only child of his mother, a widow who lost her husband in 2009; a neighbour of mine a couple of houses away.

Hillary has done odd jobs including working as a spanner boy for a car mechanic in the city, a job that equipped him with some knowledge about a car. “Is he alive?” I asked the son of our fertile neighbour. “I don’t know,” answered the young man, who was Hillary’s age mate.  “All we know is that he or whatever is left of his body is at Temeke Hospital. “But what is left of his car…Mmh!” he let it ride.

The worst must have happened for the poor widow, I thought to myself. Still, for Reporter at Large, sad though it was, it was some story worth telling.  The next day early in the morning before I went to work I went to Hillary’s mother and found her at her shack of a shop he had started after her husband’s death to make ends meet.

She only said that her unfortunate son was still at the hospital and showed me a photograph of the wreck, which was a mass of twisted metal with a lorry carrying a container sitting on it! “We still do not know the full extent of Hillary’s state, but he can talk,” she said softly.

“I can only pray to God.” Narrating the mishap later, Hillary said when he suddenly saw the juggernaut appear from behind a broken down lorry on the road and hurtle down towards him, he left it all to God. “When I saw the lorry bearing down on me like that I knew I was dead,” he said, nursing a bruise on the ankle, right shoulder and the left thigh.  Shortly before, the 34-year young man had been at ease at the wheel, assuaging his mind from the day’s fatigue with music spewed into the cabin by his car-radio in the dashboard. 

The 1994 model of Toyota corolla car comfortably climbed the hill from Mbagala Rangi Tatu. Ahead of him on the right side of the road was a trailer lorry broken down. “That morning, I had felt reluctant to leave the house and go out on Mother’s errand,” he told Reporter at Large. “I did not know why.” But all had so far gone well as he returned in the evening from seeing his uncle Benjamin in Mbagala and he still managed well in the fourth gear uphill.

He was now passing the broken down lorry when he felt his car beginning to groan with demand for more power to beat the hill’s steep gradient. “I was just going to shift back into the third gear for more power when I saw a lorry move from behind the dead lorry onto my path.

I knew I was dead,” he says. By then Hillary was midway the length of the dead lorry on the road.  They both swerved to the only open side left for them and the juggernaut hit Hillary slap bang head on. Merely out of reflex, Hillary had just in time moved from the steering-driver position to avoid being crushed. Physics came into play: In collision of two bodies, the smaller body will suffer more.

Hillary’s car, the smaller of the two colliding bodies, was smashed, dragged several metres backwards, pressed down in a ditch and buried under the giant truck, a mangled mass of metal, Hillary trapped in the wreck that his mother says ‘looked like figure eight’. “I heard and felt everything,” Hillary explains. The evening was not yet old, as it were. It was only 8.15 and soon the scene was flooded with curious people. The impact and the ensuing force of the drag had stunned him. Moments later he regained his senses and heard somebody ask if there was anybody in the wreckage under the lorry. “I heard a woman answer them that there was somebody in the car, still alive and I called out to them to help me,” Hillary explained. But he was trapped by the steering wheel that pressed him on the thigh and gear lever and the brake pedal on the leg. His knowledge of car mechanics came in handy. “I asked for spanner number 19 and unfastened the wheel,” he explains, “but still I could not move.”

He told them to tie a chain to the steering column and the other end to a car outside. The car pulled and ripped off the steering column from the floor. Then they pulled him out and put laid him on the ground. In Dar es Salaam they dash to an accident scene to help the casualties and benefit themselves in the process.  Hillary too became a victim of robbers. “I could feel a hand go into my trouser pockets and take my phone, money and all. But there was nothing I could do, my feet were numb and I was exhausted,” Hillary explains.

Still, even the Devil has good servants for whoever stole the mobile alerted his mother. “They called me twice on the same phone, first informing me of the accident, then telling me of his arrival at Temeke hospital,” Hillary’s mother says. “Then the phone went dead.” A minibus (daladala) that came along refused to take him to hospital. It were police officers travelling in the opposite who took him to hospital. 

At the hospital the doctor asked him if he had the money for treatment and for a bed. “I was shocked,” he says. But Hillary’s mother lavished praise on the police. “One officer called Saidi, a vehicle inspector at Charambe Police Station, went with me by bus to the accident’s scene. He declined to take a bus fare I offered him to return to the office, saying he was doing his job,” the woman explains.  

Joellawi@excite.com O755-666017 O785-673979


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