By Ketra Kalunga
THE accident involving 38 inmates from the Luanshya Central Correctional facility could have been avoided if we had had enough transport after one vehicle developed a fault forcing everyone into one vehicle, Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) commissioner general, Chileshe Chisela has said.
On Saturday, one inmate died on the spot while 38 others and three officers were injured after the vehicle they were travelling in had a tyre burst and overturned.
The accident happened at about 16:30 hours on the Mpongwe-Luanshya road as the inmates and prison officers were returning to the correctional facility after work.
And briefing the media on the accident in Kabwe yesterday, Dr. Chisela the inmates were ferried for work in two separate vehicles but were forced to use one vehicle on their way back as the other one developed a fault.
He said the development was regrettable as officers had no option but to take the risk of taking more inmates on a vehicle that could have taken lesser numbers.
“What happened could have been avoided if we had enough transport to carry our beloved inmates in batches. I am reliably informed that when they were going for work, they used two vehicles but when they were coming back, one of the vehicles which was supposed to pick them developed a fault.
“I think officers took a risk of taking quite a number of inmates on a van that could have taken lesser numbers and that is highly regrettable,” Dr Chisela said.
He reiterated government’s commitment to providing the service with all the amenities that were required and further disclosed that by the end of the first quarter, they would receive a number of escort and operational vehicles so that the incident that occurred as a result of carrying too many inmates on a vehicle would not be repeated.
Dr Chisela took full responsibility of what happened and pledged to ensure that measures were put in place to prevent such occurrences in the future to protect inmates and officers that were giving a service to the country.
He said contrary to the pictures circulating on social media depicting a big number of deaths, only one life of an inmate was lost.
“The pictures that could have been going around may indicate quite a number of deaths but to the contrary, what we are reporting is the fact that we lost one life and we pray that those that are hospitalized are going to go through specialised hands and of course with God’s providence that they will pull through and manage to have their lives sustained,” he said.
He said the service sympathized with the bereaved family and would do its best to ensure the deceased was put to rest in a decent manner saying the service did not take pride in losing any inmate. Dr Chisela withheld the name of the deceased inmate until his next of kin was informed.