DOUBLE tragedy struck a Honde Valley family on Tuesday night after a hearse carrying their loved one was involved in an accident that left Mr Caleb Mapaya’s corpse defaced and bruised.
His widow, Mrs Cecilia Chingaya-Mapaya who was seated next to the driver of the hearse was thrown out of the vehicle and trapped underneath.
She was rushed to Hauna District Hospital, but later succumbed to injuries sustained in the freaky accident.
The Manica Post understands that Mr Mapaya’s coffin was broken into pieces, leaving the corpse on the ground.
The Mapayas were travelling to Honde Valley for burial in a Harare-based funeral services vehicle with two other relatives — Ms Mary Muredzi and Mr Whyson Makina.
Mr Paul Chatadza was behind the wheel while his assistant, Mr Brian Chidhakwa, was also in the vehicle.
Mr Chatadza is said to have lost control of the Mitsubishi Colt double cab, resulting in the vehicle veering off the road.
Messrs Makina, Chatadza and Chidhakwa, as well as Ms Muredzi, sustained injuries.
The four were admitted at Hauna District Hospital on Tuesday night before being discharged on Wednesday morning.
Having travelled in January for medical examinations, Mr Mapaya died in Chitungwiza last week.
The Mapaya family contracted Mr Chatadza’s Chats Funeral Services to ferry their loved one from Chitungwiza to their Honde Valley rural home for burial.
Mr Chatadza has since been arrested and is assisting the police with investigations.
Acting Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Wiseman Chinyoka confirmed the incident.
“The corpse was thrown out of the coffin and it landed on the ground. The driver was speeding when he lost control of the vehicle. We urge motorists to desist from speeding and always adhere to road traffic rules,” said Asst Insp Chinyoka.
He said when the vehicle veered off the road, it hit the road embankment and rolled several times, throwing the widow and her husband’s coffin out.
The accident occurred at the 22-kilometre peg along the Selborne-Aberfoyle Road in Chipupuri Village, Honde Valey.
Ms Muredzi, who is the late Mrs Mapaya’s niece, said although she survived the horror crash, it will haunt her for a very long time.
“My aunt and her husband’s corpse were the only ones that were thrown out of the vehicle. All the doors were locked and they were still locked when we were rescued by passers-by. People say she was thrown out through the window, but it is unbelievable as all the windows were closed before the accident.
“After I was rescued, I noticed that my aunt was missing and we all rushed to look for her. We realised that she was trapped under the vehicle and we managed to rescue her.
“Unfortunately she died upon admission to Hauna District Hospital. It is really painful,” said Ms Muredzi as she struggled with emotions.
She said Mr Mapaya’s body sustained multiple injuries on the legs, head and ribs.
Narrating the events that took place prior to the accident, Ms Muredzi said Mr Chatadza had told his passengers that the car’s brakes had failed.
“He told us that the brakes had ceased as we were descending the steep slope and encouraged us not to panic. I thought he was joking as he had been cracking jokes all the way from Chitungwiza. Shortly afterwards, the vehicle veered off the road and everything became a blur,” said Ms Muredzi.
In an interview with The Manica Post on Wednesday, Mr Mapaya’s only surviving brother, Mr Solomon Mapaya, said he is still in shock.
He said he could neither confirm nor deny that the corpse sustained multiple injuries.
“I still cannot believe that both of them are gone. When the news filtered through last night, it felt like it was one of the worst nightmares l have ever had. Reality only sunk this morning,” he said.
Mr Mapaya described his late brother and sister-in-law as jovial people who were pillars of strength for the Mapaya family.
“He was the family head and that burden is now left on my shoulders. The family has lost two members who were dear to everyone,” he said.
He said since his brother’s first coffin was broken into pieces, they were waiting for two coffins to be delivered from Harare for them to proceed with burial arrangements for the couple.
“All we can do is wait, but our wish is to bury the two side-by-side tomorrow (Thursday).”
The late couple’s son, Mr Tatenda Mapaya, said his mother’s death was a sharp slap to an already swollen cheek.
“We were on my father’s funeral wake, only to hear that the hearse had been involved in an accident and that my mother had died too. I thought they were joking, but this is the sad reality. The pain is just too much, but I guess that is what they both wanted. Maybe they wanted to be together even in death, but it is really painful,” he said.
Mrs Mapaya’s aunt, Mrs Flora Gandiwa was at a loss for words, saying they have never experienced such a tragedy in their family.
“It is a taboo for someone to die while on her way to bury her husband. The fact that the corpse sustained some injuries is scary. How can a corpse be thrown out of an intact and secured coffin? The funeral service provider should tell us what really happened,” said Mrs Gandiwa.
A villager, Mr Winifred Muranganwa who was among the first people to arrive at the accident scene said the site was a replica of a horror movie scene, with Mr Mapaya’s corpse lying a few meters away from the car, while his wife was groaning as she was trapped under the vehicle.
“What l witnessed still traumatises me. I was at home when I heard screams and rushed to investigate. We rescued all the injured passengers who were rushed to Hauna District Hospital by well-wishers,” said the man.
The couple is survived by six children.
The Insurance Pensions Commission is on record saying there are several bogus funeral insurance companies operating in Zimbabwe.
The unregistered funeral assurance companies often deploy agents to scout for business at hospital morgues.
It could not be immediately established if Chats Funeral Services is a registered funeral insurance company.