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Sports News of Sunday, 25 May 2003

Source: gna

97 Died From Suffocation

COLONEL Jaswant Mante Wadhwani, a pathologist at the 37 Military Hospital, last Friday told an Accra High Court that the major cause of death among spectators of the May 9 Accra Sports Stadium Disaster was suffocation.

Giving a breakdown of the 106 bodies on which he performed post-mortem at the 37 Military Hospital, Col. Wadhwani said 97 died of suffocation, five died as result of chest injuries, while one died of spinal injuries.

He further stated that two other persons died as result of fracture on the lower limbs while the last person died of fracture in the rib.

He explained that the suffocation occurred as result of stampede and chemicals used in dispersing the spectators.

Col. Wadhwani was testifying in the case in which six police officers are being tried on 127 counts of manslaughter.

John Asare Naami, Faakyi Kumi, Frank Awuah, Francis Aryee, Benjamin B. Bakomora, all Assistant Superintendents of Police and Koranteng Mintah, Chief Superintendent of Police, deny the charges and are on ?20 million bail each with two sureties.

Col. Wadhwani, who was led in evidence by Mr Anthony Gyambiby, Principal State Attorney, said on May 9, 2001, he was not on duty but his attention was drawn to the crisis at the 37 Military Mortuary.

Witness said he proceeded to the hospital and paid attention to those who were in critical condition before turning his attention to the dead.

Col. Wadhwani said relations and friends identified the bodies before he performed post-mortem on them with assistance from one Cuban doctor.

Witness, who had earlier submitted a report to the Commission of Enquiry in Accra, tendered the report on 106 bodies to court.

During a cross-examination by Mr Atta Akyea, a defence counsel, witness agreed with counsel that he examined all of the bodies.

Col. Wadhwani agreed with counsel that there was no single bullet on them.

When counsel asked witness why the spectators died of suffocation, witness said they might have confined themselves to one area.

Witness agreed with counsel that when tear gas was released, it made it difficult for people to breathe and also it created sight problems.

Mr Agyeman Aboagye, the Cameraman of TV3, mounted the witness box following the orders of the court to appear before it or be forced to do so.

When the court enquired from Mr Aboagye why he failed to appear before the court, he said his schedules were tight.

The trial judge Mr Justice Yaw Appau, said: "I don't think you are aware of the rules of the court, else I would have ordered for your arrest the case before the court takes precedence.

Led in evidence by Mr. Gyambiby, Mr Aboagye told the court that on May 9, 2001, he was detailed to cover the football match between Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Witness said when the match was about to end, he saw spectators throwing plastic chairs onto the field. According to the witness he took shots of policemen firing "white smoke" into the atmosphere and spectators running helter-skelter.

He said some of the spectators covered their noses while others were jumping from one part of the stadium to the other.

According to the witness, when he was about to leave the stadium, he was told by some of the spectators that some people had collapsed behind the goal post.

Witness said he proceeded to the scene and took shots and handed over the cassettes to his producer.

During a cross-examination by Mr Owusu Fordjour, a defence counsel, witness agreed with counsel that in his statement to the police he mentioned that he heard police officers telling the spectators to stop breaking the plastic chairs.

Counsel: Do you know the owner of the plastic chairs? Witness: They belong to the state. Hearing continues on May 28. — GNA