The anguish, the pain...

by Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
March 8, 2000

DEBBIE Douglas was just beginning to loosen up, talking freely perhaps for the first time since the death of her only child in Monday's smash-up, when more bad news reached her yesterday.

The family had suffered yet another loss as a result of the accident, which, until then, had claimed the lives of 11.

This time it was her niece, five-year-old Ronetha Jessop, who had sustained multiple injuries and had been listed as critical at the Georgetown Hospital.

In a thrice, she was on her feet, but all she could manage was: "Ow, Ronetha", over and over, clutching desperately at her tummy.

When the pain was more than she could bear, she resignedly said, more to herself that to anyone in particular, "I ain't able holler two time".

According to her mother, Ms Joycelyn Douglas, who was also the child's paternal grandmother, Ronetha died shortly after noon yesterday. She said she had gone to the hospital at lunch-time to see how Ronetha and other family members laid up there as a result of the accident were doing.

It was 14:15 hrs when she finally staggered, under the weight of the heavy burden she carried deep in her heart, into the yard of the family's Sussex Street, Albouystown residence.

Over on Evans Street, at the home of Ronetha's maternal grandmother in neighbouring Charlestown, news of her passing elicited much the same reaction as it did on Sussex Street, especially from `Big Brother' Sherwin, who reportedly ran to his room and locked himself in.

Sherwin had tried to take his life the day before when he heard that his mother had died in the accident. He lost his mother, Violet Sinclair, aunts Barbara Sinclair and Roxanne Davis, cousin Odessa Joseph and her infant daughter, Kenisha, an in-law Kesha Currica and now his baby sister, Ronetha.

Debbie Douglas was all of 30 when she bore her first child. She called him Orlando, but he took his surname from his father, Ashton King, who owned the ill-fated mini-bus.

As she candidly explained, it was not as if it was her first pregnancy; just that it was the only child she decided to keep. Now she wished she had kept the other two who had come along after him.

She fondly remembers Orlando, who celebrated his birthday on February 8, as "a loving child", though like any other kid his age, he too had his moments, which was why she had never before sent him out with other people.

The only reason she did this time around, she said, was because her nephew, 'Fibi', whom she felt was old enough to take care of Orlando, was making the trip to Berbice.

The lad to whom she refers is 23-year-old Fibian Jessop, among the injured in the accident. He is also Ronetha's brother on her father's side.

According to the aunt, of late, she had been seriously thinking of taking Ronetha over completely since her father was not in the country. He left for London on vacation about a month ago, which is about as long as they have had the new driver, John Douglas, who, along with his little family, also perished in the accident.

Ronetha had gone on the outing to Berbice with her mother's side of the family.

Debbie, who runs a little undertaking business on the side, said the first inkling she had that something was amiss was late Sunday night when she began to experience a feeling akin to 'bearing down', a term loosely used by older women to mean going into labour at child's birth.

She had expected them back since around 21:30 hrs, and began to grow rather uneasy as the night wore on with no sign of them. They had left for Berbice early the morning for the Mashramani (Republic anniversary) celebrations in New Amsterdam, an annual affair for the family which originated in Berbice.

News of her niece's death, however, prevented her from continuing the interview which would have taken us to the point of how she learnt of the accident.

She had earlier indicated that the post mortem on Orlando was to be today for burial Friday or Saturday.

Orlando attended St Stephen's Primary and Ronetha Ketley's. He did fairly well at school and seemed inclined to athletics. Just recently, she said, he participated in inter-school sports and placed either second or fourth. He was in second standard.

She plans giving him a casket.