Debris from a major crash on the Regional Road took hours to be removed on Monday morning, causing long traffic tailbacks on the key thoroughfare.
Sources told Times of Malta that the delays were caused because police had to await hospital certification of the accident victim’s injuries before a magisterial inquiry could be launched and the road eventually cleared.
The crash occurred at around 3.30am and forced a temporary closure of a northbound section of Regional Road in Santa Venera. It took until 6am - more than two hours - for the 22-year-old victim's injuries to be officially certified as serious.
At that point, a magisterial inquiry could begin. The onsite assessment was then completed at around 9.15am, by which time, commuters had faced hours-long delays, even giving up and turning back to work from home.
Civil Protection Department officials helped pull the crash victim out of the wreckage and he was rushed to Mater Dei Hospital. But nothing on the scene of the accident could be touched until the certification of the nature of his injuries was in hand, and both lanes remained closed to traffic in the rush hour.
“We cannot move anything, even though we would like to clear up the road as soon as possible, until we know the nature of the injuries – serious, grievous, or slight,” the police explained.
If certified “serious”, meaning in danger of loss of life, the vehicle remains onsite for a magisterial inquiry to be held and the duty magistrate engages the experts.
In Monday morning’s case, this was launched at around 6am, once emergency doctors had assessed the injuries of the Naxxar man, who was immediately operated on and lengthy CT scans carried out.
“We do not assess injuries,” the police insisted, adding, however, that delays with issuing of the hospital certification were unavoidable, given that the doctors had to be certain of the injuries and were focused on saving lives.
Comparing Monday’s car accident to the serious crash in Mrieħel the day before – which also saw the main thoroughfare closed from both directions for almost four hours – the police pointed out that the impact on the traffic was very different and there was no public outcry.
This depended on the location, time and day of the accident, they said. Being a Sunday, it did not cause chaos.
On Monday morning, however, motorists reported long tailbacks as vehicles in the area were stuck in traffic for hours.
The chaos also caused Finance Minister Clyde Caruana to turn up an hour-and-a-half late to a Chamber of Commerce business breakfast debate because the commute took him two hours.
Frustrated commuters reported how the usual 10-minute trips from Żebbuġ to Qormi had stretched into two-hour drives, while Mater Dei staff meant to clock in at 7am were still in traffic by 9am.
According to traffic updates, at 8am, there was still a “total gridlock from south to north”, affecting major arteries and causing long delays. But congestion was expected to ease off at around 10am once the Regional Road was opened again.