Outing ends in mini-bus horror
- 11 killed, 17 injured

By Amanda Wilson and Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
March 7, 2000

AN OUTING by a family group and friends, including children, ended in horror early yesterday morning when the speeding mini-bus they were in crashed into a truck laden with sand on the main road at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

Eleven persons died, among them an 18-month-old baby, a couple and their two-year-old son and two sisters.

In what is believed to be the worst road accident here, 17 other passengers in the bus were injured and 16 of them have been admitted to the Georgetown Hospital.

Five died on the spot, five on the way to the hospital and another at the institution.

Survivors from the bus said it was speeding when a tyre apparently blew out and it crashed into the sand truck travelling in the opposite direction.

Police said initial investigations indicated that "speeding was...a major contributory factor."

The group in the Route 41 (East/West Ruimveldt) mini-bus from Georgetown was returning to the city from the Sunday Mashramani (Republic anniversary) celebrations in New Amsterdam when tragedy struck about nine miles east of the capital.

The bus collided head-on with the truck near the Mon Repos market at about 06:00 hrs.

There were 28 persons packed into the 15-seater bus named `The King'.

Relatives of the dead and injured said the vehicle had been hired the day before to take an extended family to New Amsterdam to participate in the Mashramani celebrations there.

Ms Lucille Brimo lost three daughters, a grand daughter and a great-grand-daughter in the accident and visited the hospital with her sister Ms Gladys Franklyn after the accident.

Brimo, who lives with her children and their offspring on Evans Street, Charlestown, said she learnt of the tragedy from a TV show.

She is from Berbice and said it was customary among the family for members to return there every year to participate in the Mashramani celebrations.

The hired mini-bus reportedly belongs to a city taxi service operated from suburban East La Penitence.

Among the dead are John Douglas, the driver of the mini-bus, his reputed wife Deon Innis and their two-year-old son, Jermaine.

Devon Ridley, one of the survivors, said the bus crossed the Berbice River from New Amsterdam to Rosignol on the 04:00 hrs ferry.

He confirmed that the vehicle was overloaded because everyone was tired and wanted to get home.

He said he was in a back seat and almost everyone in the vehicle was asleep at the time of the accident.

According to him, the driver of the bus was speeding. Ridley said he was knocked unconscious after the collision.

Seon Hicks, another survivor, said several children were on their parents' legs and the driver was speeding and talking to someone in the bus.

He said he felt the impact and realised that their bus had collided with another vehicle.

Odesia Edwards, who sustained injuries to her face, said the bus had a `blow out' and when she woke up she was at the Georgetown Hospital.

Wesley Joseph, who lost his reputed wife, Odessa Joseph and their three-year-old daughter, Kenisha Joseph, said he was at work when he heard about the accident and rushed down to the hospital.

He said although he did not live with Odessa and their child, he knew they were going to the Mashramani celebrations in Berbice on Sunday.

Joseph said that after some confusion, he was able to identify their bodies at the hospital morgue.

Dozens of people whose relatives did not return home from the celebrations in Berbice flocked the hospital compound waiting for the dead persons to be identified.

At the scene of the accident at about 07:35 hrs, blood, sand and bits of clothing were strewn everywhere. There were also pieces of bread and other bread-like products lying waste in what was left of the mangled mini-bus.

From the compressed state of the front of the vehicle, neither driver nor his front-seat passengers could have survived the impact.

Strange enough, save for a few dents here and there, the rest of the bus was almost intact.

The dead, numbered five at the time, were just being piled into a waiting hearse from the parapet on the northern side of the road where they had been placed by residents of Mon Repos.

The injured had already been taken to the Georgetown Hospital.

The driver of the truck was reportedly taken into custody at the Beterverwagting Police Station, also on the East Coast.

At a press conference in the Georgetown Hospital conference room, shortly after the number of persons involved in the accident was confirmed, Medical Superintendent Dr Madan Rambarran said that about 06:10 hrs yesterday, 23 persons injured in the smash-up arrived in three mini-buses at the medical institution.

He said five of them were pronounced dead on arrival while a sixth person died in the Accident and Emergency Unit.

Seventeen persons, including four children, suffering from head, chest and abdominal injures and fractured joints, were admitted after being treated by nurses and doctors.

Rambarran said that of the 17, three children underwent surgery and were in critical condition in the Pre/Post Operative Unit and the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, while the fourth child was admitted for further treatment.

This was the largest number of critical persons involved in one accident admitted at the medical institution in recent times, he said and noted that although the hospital was not totally prepared for such an emergency, nurses and doctors had handled the situation well.

Rambarran said the hospital needs to improve on its management techniques and is working out a management plan for emergencies.

Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, Mr Michael Khan, thanked the nurses and doctors who worked as a team and handled the situation smoothly.

There was confusion at the hospital as relatives of the dead and injured turned up.

In one instance a security guard at the eastern door of the Accident and Emergency Unit pulled his gun on a distraught relative, even though the man had told him what he was there about.