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'Soul wounds will never heal': 8B-06 survivors

José González Pinilla
De La Prensa
jagonzalez@prensa.com


21/10/2011 - The wounds caused by the flames which consumed 8B-06 bus are not what hurt the most to Lidia Atencio, but the fact the Supreme Court of Justice rejected the filed claims. "There is no justice in this country," she said.

Lidia can be located on the fourth floor of the Children’s Hospital. Nurse as profession, she is responsible for talks in waiting rooms and take care of the children’s play ground area of the hospital.

Something characteristic of her are the permanent bandages in her face and right hand. They are to cover her wounds as a result of the fire which consumed the bus, on Oct. 23, 2006. She was saved from dying that day, she said. However, 18 people did not have the same fate: they burned to death.

She is optimistic. She is now trying to live her life to the fullest. She avoids traveling by bus unless she has to. Her husband, Justo González, is the one who drives her to work. "I do not feel safe on a bus", she adds.

Everybody says hello to her in the hospital as well as on the street. They know about her history. That is why she asks herself, almost being a public figure, easy to recognize, how this could happen to her. A year ago, she said, she decided not to wait for her husband when he left his class at the university. It was a Friday. A fellow worker drove her until La Gran Estación, in San Miguelito. Around 10:00 p.m. she decided to take a taxi. Along the way, the taxi driver changed the route and went down through a dark street. Not far away there were some houses with their TVs still turned on and a kiosk.

The driver stopped on a dime, turned over his seat and pointed a gun at her. "Give me what it’s mine", said Lidia she heard and remembers. In a brief discussion, the thief gave her an ultimatum: if she did not give him the money and the cell phone he will shoot her and leave her over there. She felt she was living all over again the 8B-06 bus fire episode where the people were screaming terrified.

Lidia nervously handed over her phone and the only ten dollars she had with her. Then she got off the vehicle, heard the noise of the car running away at full speed. Her legs were shaking, she was about to burst into tears.

A lady who was walking around recognized her immediately. "You're the nurse, right? What happened?" said the lady ". She was her angel that night, says Lidia.

She was penniless and disoriented; the lady gave her a dollar and accompanied her along with another man towards the bus stop until her husband arrived. She spent several months in order get to sleep.

LUIS, THE CABINETMAKER

Luis Contreras learned to drive one year ago. He did it in order not travel by bus, he says, sitting outside his house’s porch. Then he shows his arms and torso: his brown and deformed skin leaves in evidence the burns he suffered on Oct. 23, 2006, when the bus 8B-06 where he was traveling burst into flames.

From that day, Contreras has had around 17 surgeries. His ears, for example, were rebuilt. His hands were inserted with healthy skin which was extracted from his thigh. He has greater mobility in his fingers. He feels better, he says. But suddenly, in a reflective tone, he corrects and says he has not overcome at all: "the (soul) wounds are never going to heal", he said.

Contreras has lived in Santa Rita neighborhood, in Alcalde Díaz, for 36 years. A dangerous neighborhood at night, he added.

The day of the interview, a Wednesday of September, he was helping a construction worker friend who was finishing building a wall on the lateral part of his house. The idea, he said, is to install an iron gate to the parking lot. A few months ago some thieves broke the glass of his vehicle to steal the stereo system.

Ha has no lack of work, he said. Besides being working for four years in the Presidency as a draftsman for housing projects, he has also some “little extra jobs” some weekends. He has some days off on working days because sometimes he has to travel to the interior, especially to Darién, as part of his work.

The tragedies have nevertheless pursued him: his grandfather Fernando Contreras died because of the poisoned syrup with diethylene glycol handed out by the Social Security Agency in 2006; and another relative, her political aunt Rosa Contreras, was killed when the bus she was travelling crashed against a truck in Las Garzas of Pacora, in Aug. 2009.

Almost all of the neighborhood travel by public transportation. Since 4:00 a.m. they must leave their gated homes, still sleepy, in search of a bus. Contreras does not remain silent and launches harsh criticism to the new Metrobus system. He said it has been a breakthrough, but still needs some improvement, as the frequency of the buses.

THEY CLAIM FOR JUSTICE

In the legal field, Atencio and Contreras, as well as the families of the 18 dead people, have not been successful. Last September, the Supreme Court of Justice rejected the eighth of the 14 complaints filed requesting a compensation.

Both of them are disappointed with what has happened with their cases in the judicial sphere. But they have not been sitting on their hands. They are waiting for a new process: Finney County Court in Kansas, United States, admitted a lawsuit against the distributor of the gas contained in the air conditioner on the bus, which along with the electric wiring deficiency was the cause of the fire.

Search tomorrow at Prensa.com the second issue of the special "Five years after La Cresta tragedy"


tierrareal
Hace 2 aos

El interés personal predomina en esta asquerosa sociedad en que vivimos. En el aspecto social, personas como el taxista, un delincuente sin conciencia. Los conductores de los metro buses que tienen la misma actitud de los conductores de Diablos rojos, el panameño tiene fama de ser una persona de cultura soez, y es así lamentablemente, y no me refiere a ninguna clase social especifica, porque incluso la mas grande autoridad del país tiene fama de ser vulgar y sucio en su hablar,aparte están sus otras facetas que mejor no hablo de ellas.¿No es así HP?

Mike
Hace 2 aos

Pregunta: Porque tiene que salir de los impuestos que paga el pueblo, una indemnizacion? Los que ocacionaron el accidente son los que deben reparar a las victimas, no el pueblo panameño. Nota: Para los que no lo saben, que el estado indemnize significa, que mi dinero y el tuyo son los que tienen que pagar a las victimas, y no el conductor y propietario del bus, que son los responsables.

Luis Tapia Egoávil
Hace 2 aos

Realmente es una vergüenza para todos los panameños y más para nuestro desacreditado Sistema Judicial, que una corte extranjera nos de lecciones de derecho y las víctimas en este caso del bus incendiado, tengan que esperar justicia en un país extraño, es justo que los panameños tengamos que pasar semejante humillación?

JulioEnrique
Hace 2 aos

Oye Provincial, tu trabajas en el Call Center del gobierno o que? Ahora te la pasas criticando a los medios de comunicacion y a los periodistas? te subieron el sueldo a $400.00?

Provincial
Hace 2 aos

Aqui es donde el editor del periodico, La Prensa, debe poner su mano y parar estas columnas de ser expuestas al lector. Una pregunta Sr. editor:"de q nos sirve un articulo como este?" Todos sabemos q nuestros juristas no tienen pantalones, la inseguridad en mi lindo Panama es rampante. Ahora si el columnista tuviera los nervios para hacernos saber los dictamens de los jueces entonces si yo veria q el articulo tiene relevancia.
Los comentarios son responsabilidad de cada autor que expresa libremente su opinión y no de Editorial por la Democracia S.A.

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