Following deadly multi-vehicle crash, health workers complain of ‘voyeurism’ from onlookers

May 29, 2023 | 16 comments

The driver of a soft drink trailer truck is blaming brake failure for a multi-vehicle accident that resulted in three deaths and 18 injuries Saturday afternoon on the Pan American highway north of Quito. Meanwhile, medical professionals claim that many of those who arrived at the scene seemed more interested in taking cell phone photos and videos rather than helping the injured.

The wreckage of a Coca Cola delivery truck after it had crashed into 23 vehicles Saturday on the Pan American highway near Guayllabamba.

“There were dozens of people wandering through the wreckage taking videos and not stopping to help the injured,” said Mauricio Toapanta, a physiotherapist from Quito who witnessed the accident. “When ambulances arrived, there were drivers blocking their approach, delaying care for the people who were hurt. There was space to pull over but they were more interested in sight-seeing and voyeurism.”

In one video, posted on social media sites, two injured people are shown in crashed cars. “Looking at it you realize the person taking pictures doesn’t trouble himself to stop to see if the people needed help. He just walked away and kept filming.”

In total, 23 vehicles were involved in the crash that occurred near Guayllabamba, about 20 kilometers from Quito. The driver of the truck is being held in preventive detention pending the results of an investigation.

As of Sunday afternoon, no cause of the accident had been established by police. In addition to brake failure, they said that excessive speed on the down-slope of the highway could be a factor. Police say traffic was moving slowly on the crowded highway at the time of the accident, and the truck plowed through vehicles, running over several, until it turned over and came to a stop.

Toapanta said he was forced to stand guard beside the wrecked cab of the Coca Cola delivery truck to protect the driver, who was injured and trapped inside. “Several people wanted to lynch him,” Toapanta said. “They were carrying boards and tire irons. I told them that it was not their job to judge him since we did know what caused the accident. I was shocked there were people who wanted to cause more injury rather than help.”

Emergency workers arriving at the scene supported Toapanta’s complaints, saying they had to ask drivers to move their vehicles so ambulances could pass. “I don’t know what is wrong with people but some of them were belligerent when we asked them to pull to the side,” said EMT worker Juan Carlos Medina. “They seemed more interested in taking pictures and being tourists than helping with the injured.”

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