Death snatches saviour of lives
One would say it was destiny , that one's death is pre-determined. He
was to depart this world on this particular day at this particular time.
However, fate as it was that his final breath was taken away by a
speeding military truck.
S.A.Upananda Gunasekera (34), an ambulance driver attached to Seru
Nuwara hospital in the Trincomalee district had a heart where his heart
should be, in a world where most have stones instead. Always dedicated
to his enormous task as a life saver, Upananda was more driven by his
heart than his mind. Those who worked with him will vouch for this.
During the Mavil Aru operations by the Security Forces to liberate
the area from the clutches of the LTTE many wounded soldiers had to be
rushed to hospitals. He braved the LTTE guns to drive his ambulance to
places where the injured were in the battle zone, disregarding his own
safety, in contrary to the others who hesitated and dodged.
" Once he said that he drove his ambulance right into Tiger territory
to pick up the injured knowing very well that Tigers could shoot all of
them on their return," a Doctor who had the opportunity to know him in
the line of duty recollected.
Upananda was recognised for his bravery by the people of Mavil Aru.
He received two civilian awards from the Somapura Temples for his noble
service. He earned a name for his wordless deeds during the 2004
December tsunami as well, where his ambulance worked overtime
transporting injured to hospitals from very remote areas in the Trinco
On this fateful day he took a critical patient from the Seru Nuwara
hospital to the Trincomalee hospital. There the emergency staff who knew
him very well had a heartening request, to which, being the kind-hearted
person he is, Upananda dare not say 'no'.
A critically ill infant was waiting to be transferred to the Lady
Ridgeway hospital in Colombo immediately but the hospital ambulance was
not available at the time.
In a flash he was off to Colombo. Before his departure he had a plea
to a friend, another ambulance driver from Muttur hospital. "Machang
look after my hospital, if a need arises."
Upananda safely drove the baby to the LRH in Colombo. But his return
journey was meant to be his last. The ambulance on its way back to
Trincomalee collided head-on with a military truck carrying a group of
female soldiers at Digampatana, Dambulla. Upananda was stuck inside the
Ambulance which was badly damaged in the accident. Although he was
rescued from the wreckage by the villagers he died shortly afterward.
The irony of the story was that another ambulance which happened to
pass the accident scene refused to transport Upananda who was breathing
his last by the road or any of the other 11 injured, six women soldiers
and a soldier in the truck and a policeman, nurse and two attendants who
were in the ambulance, to a hospital since it was not outside his beat.
Upananda leaves a wife and two young children, a son aged five and a
daughter aged two and a half years. His funeral will be held today in