Speed prevented evasive action

By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
January 15, 2001

Saturday's accident on the Corentyne which claimed the lives of nine persons will reopen debate on the carnage on the roads following reports that the mini-bus in the smash up was travelling at high speed.

The mid-morning collision involving a mini-bus and a canter has also left in its wake six persons nursing serious injuries.

According to one survivor, 39-year-old Radesh Kumar Ramdat of Linepath, Skeldon, the bus BFF 5478 was being driven at a fast rate by its now deceased driver, Saleman Persaud of No. 69 Village, shortly before the accident occurred.

"I was sitting two seats behind the driver and saw that the bus was travelling at around 100 km per hour," he recalled from his New Amsterdam Hospital bed nursing a broken left leg. "The engine was ringing out. If we were not travelling at such a fast rate maybe so many lives might not have been lost. There is need for more regular mobile police patrols on the Corentyne Highway to control reckless drivers who risk the lives of hundreds of paying passengers on a daily basis," Kumar told Stabroek News yesterday.

After a series of horrific accidents last year which claimed many lives, the government had sternly warned that serious measures would be taken against reckless drivers. A series of steps were to be announced by a Ministry of Home Affairs committee but to date this has not happened.

Among those hospitalised in New Amsterdam are Rasheed Khan, 16 of 142 Courbane Park, Annandale East Coast Demerara, whose legs are broken; a woman whose name has been given as Mala; Padmini Ramlakhan, 35 of Crabwood Creek; Radesh Ramdat, 39 of Linepath and Hemwattie Subkarran, 39 of number 59 Village. Khan's father Fazal Khan, 42, died shortly after his arrival at the New Amsterdam Hospital.

Subkarran has still not been told that her husband and their nine-year-old daughter perished in the crash. Khan was the driver of the H.A Snacks canter GGG 9432 and was on his way to make his usual sale for his employers. Among those who died on the spot were the driver of the mini-bus, Saleman Persaud of No. 69 Village and the owner/conductor Muniram Kirty of No. 55 Village Corentyne. Others who died were nine-year-old Sonah Subkarran, her father Hemant Balgobin, both of No.59 Village; Edmond Joseph (52) of Springlands; Deviskar Ramlakhan (9) of Crabwood Creek and 42-year-old Fazal Khan.

Sahadeo Jaikisson, 27 of Guysuco's Skeldon Estate, who suffered a broken jaw could only recall seeing the canter in the path of the bus before the crash. Ramdat told this newspaper that there were around a dozen passengers in the mini-bus when he joined it at a gas station at No. 64 Village. "I saw the canter appear in front of us and I braced myself for the impact. Shortly before the crash several passengers stood up in the bus and began screaming. Next I saw bodies flying past me to the front of the bus. It was all chaos and confusion, blood was everywhere as the two vehicles disintegrated into twisted metal." Ramdat recalled being pulled from the wreck by villagers before slipping into unconsciousness.

He is calling on the police force to implement sterner measures against drivers who speed. There has been at least one suggestion that a temporary restriction should be placed on the importation of mini-buses in an effort to bring some order in the public transportation sector.

Meanwhile, the bodies of two victims, a girl and a male adult are still to be identified at the Skeldon Hospital Mortuary. New Amsterdam Hospital sources told Stabroek News that the survivors are in stable conditions but were being closely monitored. Traffic ranks on the Corentyne were yesterday continuing their investigations into the tragedy.

Rasheed Khan told this newspaper on Saturday that his father had momentarily reached for a bottle of water and had taken a mouthful when the canter swayed into the path of the oncoming bus en route to New Amsterdam. While this accident might be the worst in the county of Berbice in recent times it is certainly not for the country.

The crash that took the most lives in the recent history of the country occurred on March 6, 2000 when twelve persons died after two mini-buses collided at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara (ECD). Following this, three persons lost their lives on July 2, 2000 when a mini-bus on its way to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri crashed into a post at Soesdyke.

A day after this accident, eight persons lost their lives on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway when an overloaded car attempted to overtake another and slammed into a canter truck travelling in the opposite direction.

On October 31, 2000 another three persons died on the East Bank of Demerara. Six perished on September 17, 1999 when a mini-bus smashed into a truck at Bamia on the Linden Highway.

On December 4, 1999, seven persons were killed in a four-vehicle collision at Happy Acres, ECD.

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