Dead family members
By Amby Uneze in Owerri
Tragedy struck in Umuakuru village, Emekuku, Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State as nine persons, including eight members of the same family, died in their sleep under mysterious circumstances on Saturday night after the burial of their mother. The tragedy has thrown the community into mourning as many villagers bemoaned the bizarre fate that has befallen the family.
Those who died were Mr. Paschal Njoku, who until his death, lived in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, his wife, five children and two other relations. Njoku only returned recently to attend the burial of his late mother.
The Njoku’s children who died along with him were Ebere, Ifunanya, Chibueze, Jackline and Uchechi.
A member of the bereaved family, Mrs. Christiana Uba, who is married to an indigene of Umualum Uratta in the same local government area who came for the funeral of their mother along with her friend, Mrs Catherine Ahunonu, also died along with her.
According to sources, the nine were found dead with foam-like substances in their mouths yesterday morning.
As at press time, THISDAY could not ascertain the actual cause of the tragedy because members of the community were too shocked to talk about the incident.
Family sources said the bodies of the deceased were discovered when the owners of the canopies used at the funeral came to dismantle them in the morning. The owners of the canopies had gone to the house of the deceased to inform them that they had come to move their canopies. But none of the family members responded to their greetings or the knocks on their doors. The pervasive silence around the deceased house aroused the curiosity of the people, leading them to force open one of the doors in the compound.
A neighbour who came to sympathise with the other family members told THISDAY that Njoku had visited home recently to take active part in the burial rites of his late mother whose remains were interred on Saturday, adding that after the funeral and other ceremonies, the entire family retired to sleep only to be found dead by yesterday morning.
No one could ascertain if the generating set was running as to generate carbon monoxide, which if inhaled for a while, could cause death.
Imo State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joe Obi-Njoku, who visited the scene, stated that it could be a case of food poisoning, stressing that if they all ate some poisoned food, they would die together.
He contended that only autopsy could ascertain the true cause of death.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, Mr. Vitalis Onugu, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said the command was yet to be briefed on the matter.