A head-on collision between a minibus and a sports utility vehicle (SUV) on the road to Lethem yesterday morning has left three persons dead and 14 others nursing various degrees of injuries.
The accident occurred around 08:15 hours at a location called Hunt Oil, some two hours from Lethem by road.
Those who perished are the minibus driver Juliano D’Aguiar, 21, of Tabatinga, Lethem; Louise Henry and three-year-old Brandon Grimmond, who were passengers in the bus.
Both D’Aguiar and Henry (who was reportedly sleeping) died on the spot as their bodies were pinned in the wrecked bus, BLL 4059, while Grimmond succumbed in neighbouring Brazil where he was rushed in a critical condition.
Eyewitnesses said that a front end loader and truck were used to pull the minibus apart to remove the bodies of Henry and D’Aguiar.
Among the injured are attorney at law Leslie Sobers; Police Lance Corporal Wendell Caesar, who is stationed at Kurupukari Outpost; Florence Grimmond, 45, the mother of the dead three-year-old; Maylene Foo, 27, both of Lethem; Renie Mc Dowell, 66, of London, England; Lucas Antone, 54, of Shea, South Rupununi; Ryan Frices, 30, of St. Ignatius, Lethem; Hussain Mohamed, 66, of Enmore; Abdella Safir, 32, of Georgetown and Munsehwar Churaman, who were all air-dashed to Georgetown.
Also injured are Brazilians Rafiel and Beutriz Moses ages 17 and 18, and Regianna Donacemento, 31, who were all taken to Boa Vista.
Speaking with this newspaper while awaiting treatment at the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Georgetown Hospital, where a large crowd had gathered, Lance Corporal Caesar, who joined the bus to Lethem at the Kurupukari junction, said he was sitting in the front seat when the smash-up occurred.
According to Caesar, as the bus approached the Hunt Oil area where the gravel on the road is very loose, a 4×4 sped past kicking up a cloud of dust in its wake.
This caused the visibility of the bus driver to be obscured.
“Just less than two vehicle length after the 4×4 passed we get a impact, Badam! Both party vision was very poor. I guess if the other driver had seen the other vehicle he would’a pull off because he had enough space fuh pull off,” Caesar recalled.
Miraculously Caesar escaped without life threatening injuries as most of the impact occurred on the driver’s side of the minibus. He said that he remained conscious throughout the ordeal.
“The driver was begging for help. He was pinned. I managed to get out with the help of some persons from another vehicle, they lift me through the window and I was able to walk,” Caesar said.
He stated that some of the other passengers were also conscious although they were pinned in the bus.
He said that Louise Henry, another of the fatalities, was seated directly behind the driver.
Attorney-at-law Motie Singh who operates a tourism-related entity told media operatives at the hospital that Muneshwar Churaman, who was among the injured, is the manager of his resort.
Singh said that Churaman and four other persons were in the vehicle traveling from Lethem after conducting a promotional exercise when the bus swerved into their path.
“The guy who got the injury, he was sitting in the front seat and the bus swerved into their lane and hit them head-on. What I get to understand from sources is that these buses going to Lethem, they always drive at a fate rate. They are always in a hurry more or less for money-making purposes. Our vehicle actually write-off,” Singh said.
But according to another eyewitness, it was the SUV that veered into the path of the bus after its driver tried to avoid the thick cloud of dust that was in the air.
Dennis Grimmond, whose son Brandon is among the dead, told the media that he got the tragic news at around 11:00 hours.
“My daughter called me saying if I hear what happened and my son critical and my wife in the hospital critical also. They had to refer my son to Brazil,” Grimmond said.
He said that his wife had left Georgetown with their son to head back home to Lethem.
At the time he was speaking to the media he had just received word that his son did not make it.
The driver of the SUV is in police custody assisting with the investigations.
Two Saturdays ago another horrific smashup between a minibus and truck resulted in the deaths of six persons.
Yesterday’s accident brought a shocking end to this year’s Road Safety Month with a total of 14 road deaths, second only to the month of May when 17 persons lost their lives.
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