JEDDAH – Two new witnesses in the Arbaeen Lake car incident have deepened the mystery by describing the event as a “figment of imagination.”
It was reported Friday that an unidentified car had crashed with a Lexus on the lake’s flyover and plunged into the waters below, prompting an intensive search that recovered only the gearbox of the Lexus. But now witnesses Ali Al-Ahmedi and Mustafa Daws have stepped forward to say that they were at the scene at the time and that no such event occurred.
“We were driving across the bridge in our car at the time of the Lexus crash and never saw another vehicle go over the edge,” they said.
“We helped the driver and a passenger out of the Lexus that had hit the crash barrier, but they refused further help and left in another car before the arrival of the emergency services.”
When asked why they took so long in coming forward, Al-Ahmedi and Daws cited fears of questioning.
Sources had initially said that a lone driver in a Lexus was chasing a car with men and women inside around 6.30 A.M. from south Corniche when the two vehicles crashed and hit the concrete barrier, sending the car full of people into the water. However, Hassan, the brother of the Lexus driver, Turki Assiri, denied that two cars were involved, and said that a burst tire caused their Lexus to crash, the force of the impact sending its gearbox into the water.
The testimony of the Assiri brothers has, however, been placed in doubt. Hassan said his brother was unconscious when a Red Crescent ambulance rushed him to King Fahd Hospital after the accident, and claimed he himself reached the hospital mid-morning to find Turki conscious and fully able to recount what had happened. Sources, on the other hand, say that the police arrested Turki at his home and took him to the site at around 10.30 A.M. to explain how the crash happened. The sources said that the Lexus was rendered immobile after the crash and that Turki immediately fled the scene on foot.
Eyewitnesses added that they saw huge bubbles coming out of the lake right after the crash.
The main witness whose testimony underpins the search effort was summoned again by police after the recovery of the front bumper of the Lexus from the lake, but police say he sticks to his original story that he saw a car carrying two people go over the bridge and into the lake.
Some have questioned the witness’s credibility, but authorities say there is no evidence to suggest that the witness is not of sound mind.
Search and rescue teams are continuing their work at the scene with cranes and divers, along with special equipment drafted in to detect metal through the muddy bed of the lake. Yet as of Sunday afternoon no signs – such as oil spots – which might suggest the presence of unusual objects have been found.
The Jeddah traffic department has, meanwhile, taken the Lexus to its headquarters for examination but found no evidence to suggest that the crashed vehicle had hit another car. – Okaz/SG