Three students were flown to Male for treatment the same night, while five more students and two teachers were ferried to the capital on a high-speed boat by the Coastguard the following day. According to the police the driver of the pickup truck, who received minor injuries, was taken into police custody after being treated by the hospital in Gan. It emerged that the license of the driver had expired in 2007 and both the police and officials, who accompanied the injured to Male, appear to put the blame solely on him for the worst accident in Laamu recently.
But sources in Thundi, Gan, claim that the picture painted by the authorities is misleading. The pickup truck was, in fact, part of an entourage including two motorcycles, a bus, and another pickup. The pickup that overturned was, in fact, trailing the other vehicles. The bus, at the head of the pack, with the police motorcycles, was carrying the principal of the Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Sani School and the female students. According to the girls, it was the principal, Ibrahim Asif Rasheed, who ordered the bus driver to break the 40-km/hour speed limit. The two pickups following tried to keep up with the bus, which had kicked up a massive cloud of dust. Motorists on the road at the same time claim the vehicles must have been speeding at at least 80km/hour.
Without clearly seeing where he was going, the driver of the second pickup saw a pit on the dirt-road too late, tried to avoid it, and caused the pickup to skid and overturn, throwing off the students.
While the driver will almost certainly face charges, the authorities have not asked the principal of the school for an explanation of his irresponsible behaviour. Not only did he allegedly order the driver of the bus to break the speed limit while he had several of his students under his charge, it is also not quite clear why he bundled several other students in the back of two pickups. Under Maldivian law, it is illegal for pickup trucks to carry passengers in the back; only two persons can sit in the back to look after loads. But the second pickup had at least 25 students in the back when it lost control.
The authorities also appear to be downplaying the injuries caused by the accident. Families of the injured students say that the principal Rasheed tried to discourage them from sending the boys to Male for treatment, by claiming they would be discharged the same day and the school would not foot the medical bills. Initially, Male's Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital went with the official version. The official in charge, Dr. Abdulla Ubaid, at first said that no one had sustained serious injuries, praising Gan Hospital for their primary care of the patients. However, he later contradicted himself when he admitted that three of the students who had sustained head injuries, as well as a teacher who broke his shoulder, were in a "serious" condition.
But sources in Gan claim the injuries included fractured skulls, and uncontrollable bleeding. Moreover, families complained that Gan Hospital didn't disinfect the wounds properly before stitching them up; as a result, they turned septic and IGMH had to take out the stitches.
Meanwhile, the evening of day that the patients arrived in Male, principal Rasheed was telling parents that all the patients had been discharged, and that there was no need to send any more students to Male. In fact it was only after three days that anyone was released from the hospital. But the education minister Musthafa Luthufy wasted no time in getting on TV to praise the school for its handling of the events.
The Al-Sani School, its principal, and the education authorities may hope that arrest of the driver of the pickup will be enough to appease the families of the victims.
If things go as they plan, Rasheed may never have to answer any uncomfortable questions or be held accountable to the actions which directly and/or indirectly caused the worst accident in Gan, Laamu Atoll, in terms of the number of injured.