A student, accused on social media of looting victims of the tragic Nabou multiple vehicle crash, said last night: “I’m not a thief.”
Veresa Sokosoko, 27, a student of Nabua Secondary School Matua (adult) class, broke his silence after he could no longer stand the personal vilification against him.
He added: “What hurt me the most was that I was trying to help the victims. I have been labelled a thief by people who did not know the full story.
“Someone took a photo or video of me and uploaded it on social media, vilifying me.”
The photo went viral and he and his family were sworn at in a barrage of verbal abuse by many people.
Mr Sokosoko said his family was traumatised by the remarks.
He said he was on his way to Lautoka with his sister when they came across the accident, which so far has claimed seven lives and hospitalised several victims.
“People were standing there taking pictures instead of trying to help those who were involved in the accident,” he said.
“I kept trying to wake those in the van and while doing this people who were standing outside were trying to take pictures.
“I was frustrated, they had the time to take pictures and didn’t have time to help fellow Fijians who needed them.
“I was trying to wake a young boy when someone was trying to put his hand inside to take pictures. I took the phone and threw it outside. I was trying to ensure that they stayed awake and then there is someone trying to take pictures.
“I collected the personal items and gave them to the Police officer on site. I visited the victims at the hospital on Sunday. There was only one woman in the minivan. I gave her phone to her personally at the Nadi Hospital and she didn’t recognise me. She gave me her phone when I was trying to wake everyone up who was inside the minivan.
“People should not be quick to judge. I forgive those who swore at me and my family. What happened not only affected me, but also my family and those who know me.
“People actually looked at me differently after the photo circulated on social media. People should take this seriously because there are people who suffered the same. They have been defamed while trying to help someone.
“I thank those who helped at the site and hope that those who were taking pictures realise that accidents can happen to anyone.
“The victims of the accidents had families who love them and seeing pictures of their loved ones on social media is terrible.
“They are quick to judge me by a photo that was posted. I was trying to cover a victim’s behind, which was exposed when someone out of nowhere took that picture,” he said.
His father, Kini Sokosoko, 68, described how he felt when he read people’s comments.
“As a father I was hurt to read what people wrote about my son without knowing the whole truth. There were words that should not have been written,” he said.
“My son is well-mannered and has been taught to never take anything that doesn’t belong to him.
“I am glad that my son collected the personal items and gave them to the Police officer at the site.”
One of Mr Sokosoko’s sisters, Akosita, who did not travel with him, said she was shocked when she saw her brother’s picture on social media.
“When I saw the picture, read the comments and saw it being shared I was hurt. I asked my brother about it,” Ms Sokosoko said.
“He said he didn’t take anything and passed all the personal items to a Police officer who was at the site of the accident.
“When he went to school he told me that his school mates started to treat him differently and it really affected him. I told him to concentrate on his school work.”
Mr Sokosoko has been interviewed by police as they continue their investigations.