Death toll now at 12
- driver was cautioned on speeding - survivor

Stabroek News
March 8, 2000

The death toll from Monday's horrendous road accident at Mon Repos rose to 12 yesterday shortly after 1:00 pm when seven-year-old Ranetta Jessop succumbed.

Survivor Michelle Azore, 27, told Stabroek News yesterday the driver of the Route 41 mini-bus which collided with a sand truck on Monday morning and caused the death of 12 persons, could have been speeding at the time of the accident.

Azore of Evans Street, who suffered a fractured right leg and multiple cuts and bruises to the body said that she had to caution him on the speeding. Traffic Chief Paul Slowe has said that speeding was a factor in the smash up.

The injured woman, who was surrounded by family members and friends at the hospital yesterday, said she was asleep at the time of the accident but recalled that shortly before the crash one of the tyres had blown out somewhere in the vicinity of Mahaicony. John Douglas, the driver, was cautioned to be ease up on his speed as they were using now using the spare wheel, Azore said.

Traffic Chief, Assistant Commissioner, Paul Slowe, said yesterday that the accident was not caused by a blown-out tyre, contrary to reports circulating.

When asked why police at stations along the coast had not stopped the overloaded vehicle, Slowe told Stabroek News that to answer that question he would ask why 28 persons saw it fit to pack themselves into one bus meant to carry only 15 persons.

Slowe was unable to say whether anyone would be charged as investigations were still ongoing.

Azore revealed that they had arrived at Stanleytown, Berbice on Sunday morning for the Mashramani celebrations. Asked if the driver had been drinking at the time, the woman replied: "You know how it does go."

She said that they started travelling back to Georgetown at about 0300 hrs on Monday and that no one had slept the previous day as everyone was having fun.

Speaking with several of the badly injured persons, Stabroek News learnt that of the 28 persons in the mini-bus all but three were asleep at the time of the accident.

According to Ceon Hicks, 22, he and Eon Heyligar were the only two along with the driver who were awake at the time of the accident. Hicks was unable to say how fast the vehicle was moving, but recalled the impact, then waking up in the hospital.

It was revealed that there were two mothers with their toddlers in the two passenger seats in front--Deon Inniss and her two-year-old son Jermaine Douglas and Odessa Joseph and her two-year-old daughter Kennisha Joseph. All four and the driver died.

Ryan Hodge, whose mother Roxanne David died in the accident, was one of two persons in the bus to escape virtually unscathed. Ryan suffered bruises to his body. He told this newspaper that he was asleep at the time of the accident but awoke in pain and saw the "bus hooked up in the truck." Odessia Edwards, 19, had been treated and sent home on Monday. (Leonard Gildarie)