“I have this feeling of guilt that I did not save Papua New Guinea ’s second in line to the throne, but I am comforted by the fact that I did my very best and had a few moments seeing him struggle to breath and speak, and knowing I served him well with all our might all these years!
“This is the story I will live with for the rest of my life.” – SERGEANT Fred Setu said.
‘𝐈 𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦’ – CLOSE PROTECTION OFFICER OF LATE DPM OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA HON. SAM BASIL SAID.
BY GORETHY KENNETH | PNG Tok Stret.
SERGEANT Fred Setu is a broken man. His heart is bleeding.
As close protection officer to the late deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil, Sgt Setu feels he failed in his duty to protect the DPM and save his life.
In an exclusive interview yesterday, Sgt Setu recalled the horrors of last Wednesday, when at a bend on the Bulolo Road called the Samsam Corner, Mr Basil and his other CPO Neil Maino, suffered fatal injuries in a tragic accident.
Overwhelmed, Sgt Setu said: “I have this feeling of guilt that I did not save Papua New Guinea’s second in line to the throne, but I am comforted by the fact that I did my very best and had a few moments seeing him struggle to breath and speak, and knowing I served him well with all our might all these years!
“This is the story I will live with for the rest of my life.”
His comfort has come from Mr Basil’s immediate family, who have comforted him as a hero.
Mr Basil’s children hugged Sgt Setu, telling him he was a hero in trying valiantly to save their father.
Sgt Setu and two others survived the accident. He suffered cuts to his forehead which were stitched up.
And in our exclusive interview tells of the ordeal, how it happened and the feeling, even though he faced near death.
Sgt Setu also recalls the moment he turned to his 2nd in charge, the late Constable Neil Maino, who he heard saying his last words as he rushed out of the vehicle to the driver’s seat to rescue the late DPM Sam Basil: “Savim lida mi orait” (save the leader, I am alright).
Those were the last words from Constable Maino.
He recalls on that fateful Wednesday, May 11, he was with DPM Basil while visiting his people at the Watut station, Manianda Primary School.
“Mipla wokim olgeta wok blong em pinis na mipla retire na mipla laik go bek gen olsem lo Zenag na bai mipla overnight bihain bai mipla kam daun long Lae,” Sgt Setu said.
(We finished all his work, we retired, we were on our way to Zenag to overnight and then to Lae the next day).
He said they left Watut station in the DPM’s new four-door vehicle which was two weeks old. “He was the one that was driving and I was sitting off-side.
The late Constable Neil Maino was sitting at the back of him, with media officer Bobby in the middle and another reserve policeman was at the left corner.
We finished from Watut and drove all the way, everything was alright.
“We came to Bulolo and then proceeded on the highway towards Zenag.
“On the way, everything was alright, we drove normal on the highway, he was telling us his plans for the day.
“All was well, he was joking and driving and we were telling stories, until we approached the accident section, they normally call it the Samsam Corner, as we were driving, it was a small corner, so when we were about to turn the corner, we could see the lights of the oncoming vehicle coming from up there,” Sgt Setu recalled.
“We didn’t expect this thing would happen so bossman em negotiate lo corner, mipla tanim corner stret because as we were sitting in the cabin, all the glasses were up so mipla tanim corner stret, this car from nowhere just drove straight na em ramim (rammed) mipla, lo sait blo leader where em wok lo drive.
“In a split second, as I saw the car approaching fast, I screamed at the leader, but it was too late, the car hit us already and after a few seconds time mi tanim lo ol boys lo baksait, I could see them but olsem olgeta ol sleep lo baksait pinis, we were all in a state of shock in a few seconds.
“When I looked at the leader, I could see that he was just sleeping on his seat with his hands on the side – I called him and tried holding his body, he was still breathing but he couldn’t respond, he was just lying on his seat.
“Upon impact from the car hitting us, I flew forward and my head hit the dashboard and the glass front windscreen, but because there were wires, it saved me, otherwise it would have been very fatal for me too.
“So at that time, I was continuously bleeding, a very bad head injury, but I had to do something seeing the leader in that state.
“I looked at the late Constable Neil, he said: “Savim lida mi orait” and I struggled to open my door, I kicked it open and I went outside, by that time the bystanders already heard or saw the accident and they came to the scene. So when they came and saw the leader, we tried pulling him out of his seat, it was a struggle, we had to pull open the door and then a PMV came, we were thinking we would take him to the Zenag station but the PMV came and we stopped it and put him in the cabin and we rushed him to Bulolo.
“I was still bleeding, and the late DPM was still breathing, we were talking to him, but there was nil response.
“The PMV is a big car so it was slow, we put him in the cabin and I got on the tray at the back. My comrade Neil with Bobby and the other officer and the boys on board, we travelled, they were still there and because I needed to rush the leader to Bulolo.
“It was quite some distance back to Bulolo so by the time we arrived at Bulolo, we took him in to the hospital emergency, it is not a state of the art clinic, when everyone there came to help us and we tried to resuscitate the late DPM, it took time too, there were some delays, the health workers tried their very best, but unfortunately leader blo yumi em pass away (at this moment, Sergeant Setu paused and cried).
“I was not there when they pronounced him dead. He was pronounced dead inside while I was being stitched in another room.”