East Coast crash takes 11 lives -- seventeen injured Other Stories

By Samantha Alleyne, Leonard Gildarie
and Albert Alstrom
Stabroek News
March 7, 2000

The bloody carnage on the roads continued unabated yesterday when 11 persons--including three children were killed--and 17 others injured after a horrifying collision at Mon Repos between a mini-bus conveying 28 passengers and a sand truck.

The accident, which occurred while the bus was returning from Berbice's Mashramani celebrations in New Amsterdam, is said to be on par with the country's worst traffic accident. On February 2, 1978, 11 persons were killed at Low Creek, Linden Highway after two trucks collided.

Dead are seven-year-old Orlando King, John Douglas, two-year-old Jermaine Douglas and Deon Inniss all of 173 Sussex Street Albouystown; Keisha Corrica, Roxanne David, Violet Sinclair, Barbra Sinclair, Odessa Joseph and her two-year-old daughter, Kennisha Joseph all of 70 Evans Street, Charlestown; and Sudella Franklyn called 'Dolla' of Albouystown.

Those admitted to the hospital are: Devon Ridley, 20, of Garnett Street; Melissa Hault, 14; five-year-old Alwin and four-year-old Wayne Brimo; seven-year-old Bryan, five-year-old Latoya and two-year-old Aubrey Hodge all of 70 Evans Street, Charlestown; Ian Edwards, 19, of Walker Terrace, Greater Georgetown; Fabian Jessop, 24, and his daughter Ranetta Jessop of Sussex Street, Albouystown; Oswald Davis called 'Buns', 37 of First Avenue, Bartica; Ceon Hicks, 22, of Independence Avenue, Greater Georgetown; Michelle Azore, 27, of Evans Street, Charlestown; Tyrone Dowding and Ossie Joseph both of 70 Evans Street, Charlestown; and Cheryl Williams, 36, of Albouystown. Odessia Edwards, 19, of La Penitence was treated and sent away.

According to reports, the accident, involving the Route 41 mini bus, BGG 5656 which had the names 'The King' and the 'Champion,' and a Leyland truck GGG 5290 fetching a load of sand, occurred at around 0610 hrs about 200 yards east of the Mon Repos Market.

Ramdeo Harilall, who was seated in the cab of the truck involved in the accident, said the vehicle was travelling in a easterly direction when it collided with the mini-bus which was travelling in the opposite direction. Recalling the accident, the porter, who was nursing wounds under his chin and about his body, told Stabroek News that he and the driver of the truck were on their way to Berbice to unload sand when he saw the mini-bus overtaking another. He said the next thing he saw was the mini-bus swerving from one side of the road to the next as if it was out of control. The truck driver, who is currently in police custody and who has been identified only as Derrick, in an attempt to escape from the mini-bus which was directly in his path took evasive action by moving over to the other side of the road. However the mini-bus pulled back to the same side of the road the truck was on and smashed into the tray of the truck.

The truck which carried the name, address and telephone number of a British firm, is registered to Titian Harinam of Bath Settlement, West Coast Berbice.

Injured: Melissa Hault Injured : Ranetta Jessop Injured: Latoya Hodge Injured: Tyrone Dowding Injured: Ryan Hodge Injured: Oswald Davis Injured: Odessia Edwards Injured: Ossie Joseph Injured: Ceon Hicks Injured: Fabian Jessop Injured: Michelle Azore

The "RZ" mini-bus which was legally registered to carry only 15 passengers had almost double that amount.

It was reported that five of the dead persons, including the driver of the mini-bus, John Douglas, were killed on spot and out of the 23 taken to the hospital, five were pronounced dead on arrival. Another, Barbra Sinclair, died shortly after she arrived at the hospital while doctors and nurses were working on her.

Five of the dead persons were taken to the Lyken Funeral Parlour.

Most of the passengers of the bus are residents of 70 Evans Street, Charlestown. According to 23-year-old Sherwin, whose mother Violet died in the accident, it is a "tradition" for the family to travel to Berbice every year to attend the Mashramani celebration in the Ancient County since they hail from Stanleytown in New Amsterdam.

He told Stabroek News that his mother, who has three other children, Odessa--who died along with her daughter, Kennisha--and Ranetta and Melissa, who are both in the hospital, "fooled" him. He explained that his mother told him that she was not going to Berbice but when his "back turned" she jumped into the bus and went. Violet's two sisters, Barbra and Roxanne who were in the accident also died. Barbra was the mother of Tyrone Dowding, who attends Ketley Primary School and who was admitted to the hospital, while Roxanne was the mother of Latoya, Ryan and Aubrey all of whom are hospitalised. Keisha Corrica who is the aunt-in-law of Sherwin was the mother of Alwin and Wayne Brimo.

When Stabroek News visited the home of seven-year-old Orlando King there was much weeping since he was the only child of his parents, Debbie Douglas and Ashton King. The bus, which is said to be a "write off" was the property of Ashton King. Stabroek News learnt that although the child lived in the bottom flat of a two-storey building with his parents he could always be found in the upper flat with his grandmother. The mother of the child lamented that she did not want to send her son but he started to cry when he was told no. She said since his uncle, Fabian and his cousin Ranetta were also going on the trip she decided to send him.

Three children, Ranetta, Latoya and Alwin who are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) are said to be in critical condition.

Yesterday harried nurses and doctors were hard-pressed working on patients. The hospital early in the morning was besieged by relatives who had heard of the carnage through television and radio reports. When Stabroek News arrived on scene of the accident yesterday, the badly damaged truck with its broken tray hanging precariously in a lopsided position, was parked on the southern side of the road facing east. The mini-bus was parked about 100 feet away where it had been taken off the road. Glass and parts of the vehicle, mingled with blood and clothes belonging to the injured and dead, were scattered along the roadway. Several seats of the mini-bus, evidently taken out to get at the passengers, were on the ground. The entire front of the bus was smashed in and all the windows broken. Several broken beer and soft drink bottles were sprinkled on the floor. The side door had been taken off.

Driver of the mini-bus, John Douglas, was believed to have been killed immediately. Also seated in the front seat were Douglas's two-year-old son Jermaine and his reputed wife and mother of his child, Deon Inniss.

Residents in the area and passing motorists quickly rushed to assist and attempted to get to the passengers in the twisted wreckage. A truck was employed to dislodge the vehicle, with its screaming and dead passengers, from the bus. Reports reaching this newspaper suggest that problems were encountered in getting at the persons in the mini-bus because of its damaged state. But the two trucks, one tugging at the back and another at the front of the mini-bus, helped in straightening the vehicle and this allowed persons to gain access in the grim rescue battle.

According to a Mon Repos resident who was among the first on the scene, the bodies of the dead and the injured which were scattered in a grotesque fashion in the bus, were taken out and one by one rushed to the hospital.

Odessia Edwards, who was one of the fortunate persons to survive the accident and the only one treated and discharged, told Stabroek News that one of the wheels of the mini-bus had been changed prior to the accident. She was unable to confirm reports that a blown-out tyre had caused the accident. The woman said the vehicle was travelling in a "normal" manner and the next thing she knew she was waking up in pain and groaning with bloody bodies next to her.

Traffic headed in the Georgetown direction yesterday morning was forced to divert through the railway road while the eastern bound vehicles moved at a snail's pace as police were directing work to remove sand from the road that spilled from the broken tray of the truck.

Bedlam erupts at hospitals
-- officials forced to hold press briefing

The compound of the Georgetown Hospital was a scene of bedlam yesterday as scores of relatives and friends of the victims of Guyana's largest fatal accident in 22 years swarmed there trying to ascertain if their loved ones were among the dead or critically injured.

And hospital officials hastily convened a press conference, to deal with questions from the media about the accident involving a mini-bus and a sand truck which took the lives of 11 persons.

Most of the dead persons were from the Charlestown area and residents of this ward flocked the hospital and creating utter confusion as they tried to absorb the number of persons who had died. Doctors and nurses at the hospital could be seen scurrying around as members of public kept yelling "more persons dead, more persons dead."

There was loud wailing from those who only found out that a relative had died when they arrived at the hospital.

A pregnant doctor, who was visibly overcome, could be seen holding her stomach as she drank some water and spat it out again.

The porters at the hospital did an efficient job in evading the mob in the compound as they transported the dead to the mortuary.

Media representatives trying to get the death toll added to the confusion and hospital officials were forced to call a press conference, the first in the history of fatal accidents.

Director of Medical and Professional Services, Dr Madan Rambarran, who along with Chief Executive Officer, Michael Khan, presided at the press briefing, told reporters that it was the first time in his history with the hospital that so many persons were admitted at one time. He confessed that the hospital did not have the capacity to admit so many persons at one time.

According to Dr Rambarran, three mini buses transported the dead and injured to the hospital. He said 23 persons arrived at the hospital, almost all at once, with five being pronounced dead on arrival and one dying shortly after.

The doctor said that the other persons were admitted to the hospital with the exception of one, who only received minor injuries to her mouth and feet and was treated and sent home.

The doctor disclosed that the persons who arrived at the hospital died as a result of injuries to the head, chest and abdomen.

The medical practitioner refused to release the names of the persons who were involved in the accident, saying he was not sure about the privacy rights of the victims.

Dr Rambarran praised for his doctors and nurses, whom he said "pulled through quite well" although they had never dealt with such a situation before.

It was further disclosed that the hospital's management was having discussions on how to efficiently and effectively handle such incidents.

According to Dr Rambarran, the mortuary at the hospital only has the facility to accommodate eight bodies, while only 23 could be accommodated at Le Repentir Mortuary.

The capacity to cope was also evident as relatives of the dead persons could be heard objecting to the way the bodies were being handled. One man said he saw the hospital staff pulling his mother by her foot on the floor of the mortuary before dumping her face down on some other bodies.

Speeding was factor in crash - Slowe

Police investigations so far into yesterday's tragic accident at Mon Repos which left 11 persons dead and 17 hospitalised have revealed that speeding was a factor.

This was disclosed by Traffic Chief, Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe, at his Eve Leary office yesterday afternoon.

According to Slowe, the mere fact that a mini-bus had done that kind of damage to a seven-tonne truck filled to capacity with sand, was evidence of the high speed involved. The tray of the truck was broken off its base as a result of the impact.

Describing the overloading of the mini-bus as mind-boggling, Slowe when questioned about reports that a blown tyre could have caused the accident, said that investigations have not revealed that.

When asked about the overloaded mini-bus carrying 28 persons, 13 above the legally specified limit, Slowe said that it was a clear breach of the insurance.

The Traffic Chief also expressed disappointment at a section of the public which continually criticises the police for doing its jobs. Citing a simple case of obstruction by a motor-vehicle, Slowe pointed out the dangers posed by a simple incident like that.

The Traffic Chief, when asked what the police planned to do to halt the rash of deaths on the road, retorted that it is not what the police planned; rather it is what the public has planned. The police were doing their duty, it was now up to the public to do theirs.

The policeman took the opportunity to express his sympathy to the relatives and friends of the deceased and injured persons and said that the problem was now a "national problem." He called on all Guyanese to become involved.

Eleven persons were killed and seventeen hospitalised when the 'King', the Route 41 mini-bus, returning from Berbice's Mashramani celebrations on Sunday, collided with a Leyland truck at Mon Repos.