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Coronavirus: Mother of Holloway bus driver who caught Covid-19 and died says transport workers need personal protective equipment

PUBLISHED: 17:31 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:35 09 April 2020

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho. Picture: Jessica Nyack Ihenacho

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho. Picture: Jessica Nyack Ihenacho

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A Holloway bus driver who caught Covid-19 and died told his sister he couldn’t miss work because they would “cut his pay”, says his mother.

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, of St Alban’s Road in Highgate, was a father who parked his bus at the Holloway depot and proudly drove it through the streets of Islington.

Emeka, 36, who attended William Ellis School and suffered from mild asthma, died on Saturday.

He is one of eight London bus workers to have died in the last few days. Another is Nadir Nur, 48, who drove on the 394 route.

His mother, Anne Nyack, says all transport workers should have personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield them from the virus.

But his employer, Metroline, says the government does not recommend issuing face masks to transport workers.

“I’m heartbroken,” Anne told this newspaper. “I’m in so much pain. It’s a pointless loss of a life for doing a job he loved.”

Anne said Emeka, who has a seven-year-old son, was family-orientated and committed to his job.

She added: “I only discovered after talking to my daughter that she begged him not to go to work and his words to her were: ‘If I don’t go in they are going to cut my pay’.

“He was the life and soul of the party, very popular. I’m now realising how popular he was off all the Facebook tributes.

“He made friends very easily, he would talk to anybody. He always enjoyed spending time with myself and his sister and we would watch movies and Love Island. He was a wicked joker, he had a nickname for everybody he met.”

Anne says Emeka first developed a temperature and had difficulty breathing on March 18 while he visited his partner, Tamara Carrick, at her home in Welwyn Garden City.

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Two days later he was admitted to Lister Hospital near Stevenage, where he was placed into an induced coma on March 23.

On March 25 Anne learned her son had tested positive for Covid-19. He was moved out of ICU to a hospital ward after appearing to get better, and on March 31 Anne and her daughter Jessica collected Emeka from hospital.

But upon returning home he was too weak to walk up the stairs and was still suffering from a cough and breathing difficulties.

On Saturday last week he was having a bath when he called out he was feeling “weak and tired”, his mother and sister hoisted him up and helped him to bed.

Anne called 111 and waited for an hour without answer, so she called 999 multiple time and was told an ambulance would come but not “straight away”.

She added: “I called 999 again and said he was screaming, calling out: ‘I need an ambulance’. I held his head between my hands and said: ‘Look at me, you’re not going anywhere’, and the look of fear in his eyes will haunt me for the rest of my life. And he said to me: ‘Mum, I’m not going to make it’.”

The ambulance arrived soon after but medics weren’t able to save Emeka.

Anne added: “The family can’t have a funeral for him and for me [tributes in the press] would be his funeral, letting me know his legacy.

“If I can get people to understand how serious the virus is, that it doesn’t discriminate whether you’re rich, poor, black or white or think you’re invincible. Read my son’s story. Even travelling on public transport, working on public transport, you’re putting your life at risk.

“My son put his life at risk to do a job he loved and was devoted to. I’m fighting his corner and when all this is over I’m going to fight to make sure that, in the event of anything like this happening again, they [bus drivers] have the right protective clothing. I will team up with Unite and fight for public workers.”

Anne, who is diabetic, and Jessica, who has asthma, are both self-isolating for 14 days in case they have Covid-19.

Emeka worked for Metroline. A spokesperson for the company said: “We are devastated by this loss and we offer our support and condolences to the families at this incredibly difficult time.

“The safety of our employees has always been our priority and we continue to do everything we can to make sure our workforce is as protected and as safe as possible during this unprecedented time.”

Emeka’s family are crowdfunding money towards his funeral costs, you can donate here.


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