Thursday, October 18, 2012

أبو الهول نكبة Sphinx Accident

Asalamu Alaykom,

It has been almost a week since Egypt had a horrible Friday.

I know you're thinking of Tahrir clashes but that's not it.  I'm kind of tired of grown men acting like boys to prove that they are somehow smarter or bigger or better.  Tahrir doesn't faze me any more.

No, last Friday was a tragic day in Giza but very few people heard about it.  If you follow me on Twitter, then you'll know that I was the only one reporting it.

What happened?

That's a good question.  For a long time, I couldn't figure out all the details.  It was around asr prayer time that we got the call.  My husband's cousin had been in a horrible accident.  I thought, of course, that the accident had happened on the road.  Road accidents are as common as the azan.

According to the family, Hashem was at work at the Sphinx with his hantour; his horse and carriage.  Some say there was an American woman as his passenger though this has never been confirmed.  When he was on the road coming down from the Pyramids area to where the Sphinx sits, there was suddenly an out-of-control army truck;  in British English, "a lorry".

This truck was going downhilll so it actually gained speed and flipped over again and again.  While it was doing this horrible series of rolls, those in front of it were powerless to get out of the way.

It all happened too quickly.  Hashem was hit and killed instantly.

Reportedly, his passenger was too.

I had heard that a school field trip was on the road and was hit as well.

I had heard that children had been injured.  This is every teacher's worst nightmare.  I seriously am on hyper-alert when I take a group of little innocent babies out into the world.

At 4:21 PM, on October 12, I tweeted that there had been a freak accident in Al-Haram at the Sphinx.

BREAKING: Army truck blows tire at Pyramids, rolls down hill n crashes into hantour killing 1, Hashem, n tourists injured or worse.

One person retweeted.

The information was trickling in through the night as each new family member paid a visit.

As if today couldn't get worse in  a freak accident at Pyramids crashes army truck into a hantour killing driver n maybe tourist

Was it all true?  Probably not.

 Freak accident inv. army bus within Pyramids gate on rd. next 2 Sphinx. School field trip on rd. at time. Reportedly students dead.

I tweeted what I was hearing but kept labeling it as heresay until confirmed later.

1st reports on Sphinx accident were about family member n hantour driver Hashem dying when army bus rolled over him. 1/2

Sphinx accident now sounds more horrific n bigger in scale with many casualities inc. workers, soldiers, tourists n kids on field trip 2/2

No one retweeted.

Eventually, I asked in a kind of desperation WHY the only show in town was Tahrir.  Did Egyptians only care about that one piece of land?  Did all other news disappear if people were protesting on a Friday?

  is bigger than Tahrir. I report a horrible army truck accident next to SPHINX with casualities n no one seems to care.

I sent one message to , a newsy tweeter, also in Egypt.

 I'm only 1 tweeting: Army bus rolled over n over on rd. next to Sphinx killing 1, maybe as many as 30 (kids on field trip).

That finally got retweets.  So, a few people did care.

  Residents of Al-Haram saying around 20 died (Egyptian) but cross-section: workers, army, visitors inc. children

It felt strange to be surrouned by a village of mourners in a clueless country.

 Thnx for nice wishes. Actually, only the village right next to the Pyramids knows of this accident. Rest of  is clueless

 It was out of control with no time to get out of the way. Reportedly school field trip walking on road as well as hantours.

Now hearing that army truck accident at Sphinx did kill an American woman who was riding in hantour. The driver was cut in two by force.

 Did an Amer. woman die at Al-Haram Hospital, Giza after hantour/army truck accident at Sphinx? Able to confirm or deny?

Only 4 days ago an army bus lost control with 21 killed n 25 injured. Today 2nd army bus lost control with maybe 20 killed. Coincidence?

The day after was the funeral for my husband's cousin.  A sad day.  He was around 20.  Not married.  Just starting his life.  From Allah we come and to Allah we return.

I would do more investigation of accident at Sphinx but I'm not Nancy Drew n my Egyptian hub is against me going to scene n asking questions

I kept searching for more news but couldn't find any.

Anyone else alarmed that there was an army truck crash at Sphinx on Friday which killed people and there's a news blackout on this tragedy?

Eventually, a honeymoon couple found me.  There were world-wise travelers from America.  They had been there that Friday and had witnessed the horrible scene that unfolded.  I asked them to tell me what they had seen.

What follows is the husband's unedited, first-person account:

Tourist:  Good to hear from you and we are so saddened by this terrible accident. I can tell you what we saw - it keeps replaying in mind constantly and it has been gnawing at us not knowing what happened to anyone.

Me and my wife were walking around the Sphinx with our tour guide that we had hired from our hotel. We had just finished and were walking up the steps to the road when we heard a bizzare rumbling sound. I looked up and saw a huge army truck careening out of control at high speed down the road. 

At first, I thought it was some crazy person racing and I couldn't understand what this driver was doing. Then a split second later, I realized what was happening - the truck had no brakes and could not stop. We heard it crashing into objects (not sure what) and heard people screaming and trying to run out of the way. A car was in front and was trying to speed out of its way - in short time, the truck caught up to it, hit it from behind, and sent the car onto the sidewalk and into a wall. The truck kept picking up speed and as it approached a turn, I think the driver tried one last effort to stop it and aimed for a tree. The truck turned left quickly, crashed into a tree and then flipped over onto it's side. 

There were people there, but from where we were standing, we couldn't tell if anyone had gotten trapped under the truck. We assumed some had, as people started screaming and running towards the truck, trying to lift it up. I didn't know what to do, but decided if I could help, I would try. I told my wife to stay with our guide and I ran up to the road to see if there was anything I could do.

I passed the car that had been hit - it was badly damaged at the front and back, but I didn't see anyone inside and I didn't see any blood. I think the people in there may have made it out ok. 

The street was covered in blood and debris. 3 horses were lying on their sides - 2 were dead (and had been run over) and a third was badly injured and just panting on the side of the road. I believe it probably died shortly after.

 I got to the truck, which still had it's engine running, and didn't get a chance to check inside - I think people were trapped in there. A crowd had gathered and were beating on it trying to open a small opening in the roof. It wouldn't move and I couldn't see inside. 

We tried to lift the truck up but after a few tries, I realized it was futile. Even with 40 + men pushing on this, it wouldn't move. And even if it was possible to lift the truck, it was obvious that anyone underneath it would have been killed instantly. 

Our tour guide somehow found me and grabbed my arm to pull me away. I couldn't understand why and I think I shouted at her to stay with my wife - and then as I came to my senses, I realized why she was pulling me away. The truck was leaking gasoline and it was all over the road. We got very worried that it might catch on fire, explode or worse. 

We walked away from the road and I saw a man holding what looked like a dead child. Again, I couldn't tell for sure, but the child appeared limp in his arms and bloody. The man was wandering aimlessly and I think he was in shock - it was terrible - he had nowhere to go for help. We walked away and just watched this unfold in horror. It was an awful feeling - we wanted to help but at the same time we realized there was absolutely nothing we could do. 

It took about 20 minutes for a fire truck and 2 ambulances to arrive, and at that point, I felt realived that at last someone had come to help. But the crowd was so large that they couldn't get through and just stopped about 50 - 100 meters downhill of the wreck. 

Then, for some reason that was a total shock to us, the crowd started yelling and throwing rocks at the ambulances. I don't understand why anyone would do this. The crowd turned into an angry mob and we couldn't understand why or what was happening. At that point, we just ran for our taxi and got out of there. In total shock and not knowing what happened to anyone.

Please give our condolences to the family of Hashem. For all I know, we may have seen him that day, smiling on his horse and leaving such a warm and memorable impression on us and everyone who visited the pyramids that day. 

And feel free to contact me here. There were literally hundreds of people that witnessed this that day - I know others may have seen things and have more information than we do.

All the best to you and your family.

I replied back:

Yosra:  I hear the sadness in what you've written.  I think what makes it sadder is that it feels like it's happened in a vaccuum---since there's no news about it.

Your account tells so much of what took place.  It fills in some gaps.

Yes, I think you were in shock.  I've been in really tough situations where I know I was operating under severe shock and it's very debilitating.  You've had that huge burst of I MUST DO SOMETHING and then afterwards you are completely spent.

Alhumdulillah that the truck didn't expload.  I think it was really likely.  

It's sad to think of the futility of the men trying to push the truck over.  My husband, had he been there, would have given his life trying to fix the problem.  

I do think that child had died.  I know that a child was reported dead.  I had heard it was a girl.  Was that what you saw?  Egyptians love children so much.  The thought of the man holding her is hard to handle without crying.  I'm pretty sure he was not a relative but rather either a school worker or a pyramids worker.

I heard from my former co-worker's man that the truck driver died.

The man, by the way, almost didn't come out of his shop to see the trouble. He was so sure that there was a fight going on----like a street fight.  He had no idea that there was such a tragedy unfolding.  He said that the trouble was that the truck couldn't stop---he saw only the results and not the actual event.  He said that there was blood from the horses everywhere.  He attended the funeral for Hashem on Saturday (which I didn't know he had done until tonight).

It's a very close community here with two main families running the show.  Everyone intermarries with these families and so everyone is related somehow.  

It's a strange thing to hear that there were rocks thrown to the ambulances.  I'm not sure why.  I'm going to ask my Egyptian husband what the thought was on that.  Weird.  I do know in Egypt that, after accidents (like a car accident) the crowds go violent and do things like beat up a driver who hits a child (even if it wasn't his fault).  I've seen three children get hit by buses here (only one survived) and it's very common place to have a melee.  Egyptians are too passionate about most anything and it sounds like tempers were running high with no outlet except those rocks.

OK, I just asked my husband about the rock throwing at the ambulances.

He told me that people were angry that it took so long for them to reach the area.  It doesn't mean that my husband agrees with this viceral response.  He did understand a bit why people feel this way.  The community begged for an ambulance to be stationed in our village and even had the money commmitted to build a facility.  The Mubarak regime denied them this access to service.  Basically, the village stands here in defiance of what the high-rollers in the country have wanted to do to the land.  So, the villagers pelting the ambulances is like them seeing the whole history of the ambulance issue.

My husband, of course, thinks that the ambulance drivers should have been allowed to do their jobs and shuttle the injured to the hospital.  If people have a problem they need to speak to their government officials.

My opinion is that it makes no sense for the Pyramids to be one of the most visited sites in Egypt and to have no medical services on site.  That's how I understand it but I need to find out more info.  It seems like the medical services needed to come to the site which can come very slowly due to traffic.  

This was a horribly sudden and tragic event but there can be less startling but still severe occurences such as heatstroke, heart attack, broken bones, etc.

I do believe that there are pictures of the accident.  In some ways, I don't want to see them.  I'm not much for gore.  I am very sensitive actually.  Maybe that's part of the reason this affects me so much.  I was there with my husband when he got the call and saw his reaction and it hurt me to see him hurt by the news.  

I like what you said about the workers:  "For all I know, we may have seen him that day, smiling on his horse and leaving such a warm and memorable impression on us and everyone who visited the pyramids that day."

Really, it's probably true that you did see just that.

Thanks for what both of you have shared.  I hope it's helpful; not hurtful.  I'm going to keep digging and finding out more inshahallah.  I'll let you know what I find.  I'm not going to make it my mission in life but it is important enough to me to do as much as I can before laying it to rest.

He sent me his reply:

Tourist:  Problems won't get fixed if people aren't even aware of what the problems are. Although, that is easy for me to say sitting far away from this. You and your family are actually there and have to decide what, if anything, is the best course of action. I wish you the best no matter what.

It's sad that all that really needs to happen to help avoid a similar tragedy like this is regular maintence and inspection of vehicles by the government / military. And second, as you said, medical facilities closer to such a world-renowned tourist attraction. Awful tragedy. We really feel terrible for the families afftected.

I agreed with him:

Yosra:  I  really do feel the truth of what you say about making things better.  First it is acknowedging the truth and then working together (rather than dictating or denying) to really bring about change.  I'm sure you feel even better how it is that Egypt is not equipped to handle the aftermath of the Revolution.

Beautiful country!  Amazing resources!  Wonderful people!  AND really cogged-up (to put it nicely) system...or LACK of thereof.

Later I searched the internet:

It's been days since this took place and I finally took the time to find some news on the accident.  I typed the word, "sphinx" and used google translate to find the Arabic word then I searched the news for that.  Here's what I pulled up in Arabic and then translated.  It's hard to read so I've edited only for readability. 

file photo (meaning that it's from another accident before)

Two people were killed and 14 wounded recruits were wounded from the Central Security Forces in an accident involving an overturned lorry from Central Security.  Three horses were also killed in the ancient Sphinx area during the rollover.

The bodies were transfered and the injured were taken to the hospital.  Investigators then took over the case.

Major General Kamal Daly, Director of Public Management, had received word that a runaway lorry belonging to Central Security and loaded with soldiers had overturned in the Sphinx area.

The occurrence needed Gen. Kamal Daly, Director General Administration for the Investigation of Giza, and Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Farouk, Director of Research as well as Detectives in Giza and both ambulance and fire emergency vehicles.  

Examination shows that the lorry, loaded with soldiers, was going down the hill when the driver suddenly became unable to steer.  The lorry flipped on the car.  A worker, his wife and three horses were killed.  14 soldiers were wounded.

The transfer of the bodies and the injured to hospitals, was notified by Major General Ahmed Salim Naghi Giza Security Director of the incident.

Here is another version:

Killing 2 and Wounding 16, including 4 Recruits in a Runaway Central Security Vehicle in Giza

Fri, 12/10/2012 -15:58 

Information Center Official said that the Interior Ministry reports citizens were killed and 16 others wounded, including 4 recruits, in a runaway lorry belonging to the Central Security while going down a steep road in the Sphinx archaeological the Giza area, following a collision with a car.

The source added that the Central Security vehicle overturned, Friday, after a collision with car "angel" which was carrying the two victims.  Another 12 injured, 4 recruits were wounded by lorry of the Central Security Forces, sphinx archaeological the Giza area.
He pointed out that the injured were taken to hospital for treatment, and to take the necessary legal procedures 

And another:

Runaway security car at Pyramids 

Loaded with Central Security troops

And there are Victims

Today, the Pyramids of Giza, saw an overturned truck from Central Security.  It was loaded with soldiers and rolled down from the top of the pyramid plateau to the Sphinx archaeological area, which led to casualties.

Security sources said that the truck was carrying more than 20 recruits, had the accident after the steering wheel malfunctioned in the hands of the driver, during his ascension from the plateau, which led to the death of two car owners, and more than 7 patients were tranfered for treatment.

Here is a follow-up story:

Prosecution Loose Brake Led to a Runaway Lorry from Central Security Tourist in the Area of Sphinx

Posted - Nada Hamdi

Proceeded team on behalf of the pyramid chaired adviser Wael stage Chief Prosecutor investigation into the runaway lorry from Central Security in the tourist pyramid area after the incident resulted in the deaths of 3 Egyptians and wounding 35 others, including 5 Libyans and 7 recruits.
The prosecutor ordered the assignment of technical engineer to examine the car central security and a statement of whether technical reasons led to the incident also decided to question the injured driver of the car on the cause of the accident as soon as he recovered due to ill health.

The investigations revealed the prosecution conducted by a team annexation of Mustafa Yassin and Mohamed Abdel Moneim, Mustafa Abdel Latif and Osama Zinati agents. First prosecution said the lorry from central security was descending from the plateau area Sphinx tourist flipped car several times on the Users and visitors tourist area and resulted in the first thought held by the prosecutors that during the descent of the car from a high place, the brakes came loose, which led to sudden inabilty    p
of the driver to stop and lose control due to the lack of brake

 Investigations said that the deceased included three Egyptians and five Libyans,  injured one family consisting of the father and mother and 3 sons, The terrible disaster when turned lorry from Central Security killed and injured 38 people including 7 t recruits and 5 Libyans.  It also killed 6 horses 

In conclusion:

What's the truth?  What's the spin?  I don't know.

A few comments appeared on the news articles, including:

"What's happening to my country?"


"God have mercy".

And maybe the only way I can end this story at this time is in response to that last comment with, "Ameen".


Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss. Any death in the family is devastating indeed. The loss of a young life is so much more tragic.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Anon,

I appreciate your comment. This is getting a lot of views but yours is the first comment. Maybe people don't know what to say but what you said is just perfect for me.

New Wife said...

Allah yrhmhom...

wallah i'm not sure what else to say.

May Allah give our brothers and sisters in Egypt the means to have a steady government reliable safety and services for their people ameen.