Saturday, June 5, 2010

Death on the Road

In this post, I will describe our experience of coming upon a motorcycle-bus accident on the road from Lijiang to Qiaotou.

The drive was supposed to be 2.5 hours.  We had been driving for about an hour and a half along the narrow mountain roads when we came upon the accident.  We saw the vehicle in front of us slow down, and I caught a glimpse of a body on the road -- clearly dead, with blood and entrails everywhere and the motorcycle lying several feet away.  The driver talked to a witness, who said a bus to Shangri-La somehow ran over the man and then just kept going. 

There was no way around the body and traffic began backing up on both sides.  The police came, but no one made any effort to clear the scene of the accident.  Minutes and then hours began ticking by.

The man's wife was led up to the site, where the mangled body lay cruelly uncovered.  When she saw it, she melted into the pavement and immediately started wailing and sobbing.  Friends helped her away, although we heard her intermittent wails for a long time.  Someone brought up a rooster and tied it to a rock by the side of the road.

Meanwhile, spectators from the long line of parked vehicles sauntered up to the site -- smoking, chatting, taking pictures, or squatting by the side of the road to wait.  An American man who lives in Shangri-La walked up to see what was going on.  He shook his head at the sad situation and noted that it could be 6 or 7 hours before the scene was cleaned up.  "No one will touch the body until someone in authority comes around and makes them do it," he concluded.

We sat in the van and waited.  I was a little shaken by the immediacy of the man's death and his wife's fresh grief exploding in front of us.

Three or four hours passed with no change, and we still had no idea when we could continue.   Another tourist in our van talked to the driver and arranged transport for us on the other side.  We had to skirt the accident site, so the driver walked us through the brush by the roadside to the top of a hill.  Then we met up with the road again and walked 20 minutes.  As we walked, our driver seemed to take a sort of macabre delight in relaying the gory details of the accident site to drivers waiting further down the road.  A different van picked us up at the end of the stopped traffic and we continued on our way.

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