x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Death toll now five as police seek to explain lorry crash

Victims of crash that saw roadside restaurant destroyed are identified as driver remains in critical condition.

Sayed Anwar had just finished breakfast and left the restaurant when the crash occurred.
Sayed Anwar had just finished breakfast and left the restaurant when the crash occurred.

It was 9.20am, and Sayed Anwar had just finished his breakfast at a restaurant off the Abu Dhabi-Tarif Road. As usual, he walked to a nearby mosque to pray. After washing, he had begun his prayers when he heard a loud, rumbling noise. The Pakistani man ran outside and saw something awful: a lorry pinned inside the restaurant in which he had just been eating. He rushed over to help.

"I couldn't see well at the beginning because there was so much dust," he said. "I pulled out a man who was under the lorry." Police said the lorry that slammed into Al Mansoori restaurant on Wednesday was carrying a heavy load of iron bars. It killed four people instantly and injured at least nine others, officials said. Another person died yesterday, and the driver was confirmed to be alive but in a critical condition.

Four of the injured were being treated in Mafraq Hospital's intensive-care unit. Five others were under care at Zayed Military Hospital, and officials said one of the injured was moved yesterday to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. Those killed were identified as Mirdar Azam, 36; Moumtaz Ali, 45; Mohammed Khan, 35; Rasoul Daraz, 35; and Dilawar Khan, 39. Two of the injured - a 30-year-old Pakistani who suffered a head injury, a broken hip and a chest injury; and a 60-year-old Yemeni suffering from injuries to his stomach and back - were airlifted by helicopter to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

Another helicopter transferred a 42-year-old Pakistani suffering from internal bleeding and broken bones to Al Mafraq hospital. Col Hamad al Shamsi, the head of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department, said the investigation into the accident had been referred to Bani Yas Public Prosecution. Prosecutors in the office could not be reached for comment. Mr Anwar said the man he saved was from Waziristan, Pakistan, and was taken to Al Mafraq Hospital. He did not know any of the victims personally.

"The police arrived soon, so my job ended there," he said. "I know that one of the dead was from Waziristan. I couldn't identify the bodies because of the dust." Amanullah, 24, from Pakistan, said he was a friend of one of the dead men, Rasoul Daraz. He said Daraz, who went by the name went by the name Daraz Khan Mir, was from Pakistan and drove a small lorry. He said his friend had been in the country for a year and was married with three children.

"He has two boys and one girl," Amanullah said. "He carries in his lorry everything, mostly bricks for construction sites." He said the dead driver's family, who are all in Pakistan, still did not know about the accident. Another of the man's friends, Zabit Khan, 45, also from Pakistan, confirmed that no one had told his family yet, but said his friends would arrange a funeral for him in Musaffah.

"We'll invite all his friends and everyone from his tribe. I heard the news about him from people," Mr Khan said. "It's a huge accident, not small, so everyone is talking about it. We are very sad. "He is from the same region we come from. We sat together and we spent a lot of time together, so of course we are sad." Three lorries, bearing both Abu Dhabi and Dubai licence plates, remained parked in front of the restaurant yesterday. Dozens of curious visitors or drivers planning to take a break or eat at the restaurant stopped at the site.

Restaurant staffers came back to guard the grocery and planned to spend the night there. But no cleanup had begun yet. Damaged fridges, tables and chairs were scattered around the remains of the restaurant. Habib Ali, the restaurant's cashier, said they were waiting for official papers before reconstructing the restaurant, "but that's something to do with the boss". Faqid Ali, a lorry driver from Pakistan and a regular customer of the restaurant, said he went there yesterday morning, but that when he arrived "there was no restaurant".

@Email:hhassan@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Marten Youssef and Haneen Dajani