Several hours after 12 persons lost their lives on the No. 19 Corentyne Public Road, their relatives and close friends were still trying to grapple with the horrific news of the manner in which they met their demise.
When this newspaper visited the homes of the dead and even the family members of the survivors recollected on the last moments spent with their loved ones and how they were greeted with the news of their death.
Those dead have since been identified as, 33 year-old Oudit Narine Baboolall of No. 48 Village, Corentyne, who was the driver of the minibus; Orlando DeMattos of Manchester Village, Corentyne; Talita Mendonca and her two-month-old son, Josiah Khan, of Kildonan Village; Janet Baker of No. 19 Village; 46-year-old Salima Juman, of Bird Bush, Canje; Salmaa Razaac of Cumberland, Canje; 35-year-old Cindy Jaggernauth, of Nigg Village; 30-year-old Patricia Asgarally, of Albion, 38-year-old Chetram Ramphal, of Bush Lot Village; 14-year-old Marquest Ault, of Rose Hall, Corentyne; and 19-year-old Nazradin Mohinudin, of East Canje Berbice.
The survivors are 24-year-old Tamika Fraser, of Kildonan; Sham Jaggernauth, of Nigg; Fiona Paramsook of No. 11 Village, Corentyne; and Anwhatie Singh, who was the conductress of the minibus. She was the driver’s wife.
Up to press time yesterday, only Paramsook was still being treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital while Singh was being treated at the New Amsterdam Hospital. The other two survivors, Jaggernauth and Fraser, were discharged from the New Amsterdam Hospital some time yesterday.
Recollecting the horrific ordeal, the relatives of Sham and Cindy Jaggernauth said that they got the news from relatives who had seen a news report.
According to relatives, the couple had left their Albion home to visit New Amsterdam to conduct business. The couple’s daughter, Shalini Jaggernauth, said she was at school but when she got home her parents were not there. She said as night fell she became worried since her mother would normally contact then via phone if she out too late.
“We deh waiting fuh she come home but we ain’t seeing she. Later, a cousin call and she ask me who deh home with me and wheh me mother deh. Me tell she me ain’t know.”
The teen said that her cousin then informed her that there was an accident and that her mother and father may have been involved.
According to Shalini, she immediately informed her uncle and other relatives who raced down to the New Amsterdam Hospital where they were told the Mrs. Jaggernaught died but her husband survived.
According to the relative, Mr. Jaggernaught related to them that that minibus was heading to New Amsterdam along the No. 19 road when the truck came into its path.
“Is a miracle he come out that bus alive. He went in de front seat. We aint know how he survived.”
“He tell we that this big truck just overtake a car and de speeding and (the truck) end up in de minibus path and he ain’t know nothing else after…He seh de rain de pouring”.
Down at Manchester Village, Marsena De Mattos, the wife of Orlando De Mattos, said that she is still in disbelief that her husband of ten years is no longer alive.
The woman said that she could not bear to see the sight of her husband’s remains. She was told that her husband’s body was badly damaged.
“He brother say he foot deh till in he belly and de people at de mortuary had to pull out de foot.”
Mrs. De Mattos said that she last saw her husband alive on Friday when he left for work. De Mattos was employed as a cane harvester.
“He does normally leave at five in de morning and after I ain’t see he coming home I start calling he phone and it going straight to voice mail.”
The woman said that a relative then contacted her telling her to look at the news since there was a terrible accident. According to De Mattos, she contacted her husband some time during the day and he had informed her that the Rose Hall bank was filled with customers so he was heading to New Amsterdam to draw his salary.
“When me cousin call me and tell me about de accident I tell she me ain’t got time because I got me baby to look after.” The woman said she continued trying to contact her husband’s mobile phone but kept getting no answer.
She said she even asked another relative to contact him but the relative too kept getting transferred to voice mail. Moments later, the woman said a police rank called and informed her that her husband was involved in an accident and that he had died.
De Mattos was identified after his identification card was found in his pants pocket.
The relatives of young mother, Talita Mendonca and her two month-old son, Josiah Khan, said they were shocked at the news of their death. Relatives said that the young mother left her home with another relative, Tamika Fraser, to conduct business at Whim.
At Whim they were referred to New Amsterdam, hence they joined a minibus not knowing that they would never make it to New Amsterdam.
As expected, relatives and colleagues of Patricia Asgarally were overwhelmed with grief. At the woman’s Albion home, her husband, Tyrone Sangster, was being consoled by relatives as he too tried to accept the fact that his wife was killed in an accident.
Sangster told this newspaper that as usual, on Friday morning he left for work while his wife was preparing for work. Asgarally was employed at the Port Mourant Ophthalmology Centre.
“Normally she does come straight home but after I see it getting dark and she ain’t coming home, I start calling she phone.” The man said that after calling and getting no answer he stopped calling. Then he decided to try for one last time.
On his last call to his wife’s phone, Sangster said that a female answered the phone and identified herself as a nurse from the New Amsterdam Hospital. The man said the nurse then enquired from him who he was to Patricia.
“I tell she that Patricia is me wife and she tell me come down to the hospital because me wife get in an accident.” The man said that when he arrived at the hospital he was merely called into the emergency room to positively identify his wife’s remains.
“She just lay down with a big buss on she head and a cut on she face.”
For Anthony Ault, of Rose Hall Town, the news of his son’s death, 14-year-old Marquest Ault brought back memories of his wife’s death only two years ago. Anthony, who operates taxi in New Amsterdam, said that his son was on his way to New Amsterdam for lessons when the accident occurred.
The man who has been a single parent to his three sons for the past two years, said he was passing the accident scene when he noticed his son’s mangled remains.
“All I do is pick up me son body and help carry he to de hospital.”
Lakhram Baboolall said that his son Odit Narine Baboolall, 33, of No. 48 Village Public who was the owner and driver of BHH 1842 had been driving for the past ten years. He said that prior to Friday’s accident his son was only involved in one accident.
The man recalled that on Friday morning his son, while passing their home, slowed down and waved at him. Baboolall was no stranger to the New Amsterdam/Moleson Creek route. He said later that terrifying day he received a phone call from his cousin with the heart-rending news of his son’s demise.
“I heard of the accident at 5 o’clock. I was in the Backdam farming. Then I went to the accident site and later to the hospital where he was identified.”
The father disclosed that his son’s wife, Ashwantie Singh, 33, also of No. 48 Village was the conductress of the minibus at the time of the accident. “She only start to work on the bus the other day. Since the work get hard, they decided to stop paying a conductor.”
The two leave a 14-year-old daughter to mourn.
Chetram Ramphal, called Heera, 38, of Bush Lot Village, was a father of six, the eldest being 17-years-old, and a dedicated fisherman for the past eight years. The fisherman had three sisters and two brothers.
His brother, Rajkumar Ramphal, disclosed that Ramphal was on his way to the New Amsterdam Hospital, to take an item for his son who is hospitalised. This newspaper was told that Ramphal’s wife, Bibi Sookram, was already at the hospital awaiting his arrival. After waiting for a prolonged period she returned home and enquired of her husband’s whereabouts.
“We hear de news of de accident, and we call the hospital and dem ask we fuh describe we brother and wha clothes he de wearing.”
The man said that after giving a brief description to a hospital official, they were told that one of the dead persons may be their relative.
Shaneeza Juman, 24, who was recently married, said that her mother, Salina Juman, 40, of Burn Bush Dam, Canje, worked at the Port Mourant Hospital and was a mother of four.
She said that the family received the information of the accident after 16:00 hrs, from friends of her mother. The family was then told that there was an accident on the road and that contact should be made with her.
Adding that they tried contacting her phone but received voicemail, Shaneeza said that contact was then made with the hospital and they later identified the body at the New Amsterdam Hospital. “Her face was badly damaged; we recognised her by her clothes.”
Franklin Baker said that his sister, Janet Baker, 44, of No. 19 Village was a mother of eight, and worked at a restaurant.
He said that he last saw his sister when she left for work to catch the bus at the bushed, “she was the last to catch a bus. She never caught a bus to travel. She always catch car. Then we hear about an accident but we didn’t know it was me own sister.
“Even when me go pon the scene me ain’t know is me sister. Is until seven o’clock in the night, me sister daughter call we and say let we go over cause she sick. When me and me wife go she tell me that she ain’t sick that she want to tell me something. Is the same bus that get in the accident, is the same bus Pearlie go with.”
He explained after he tried calling his sister’s phone and found that someone else had the phone in their possession. However, the person on the other end of the call disclosed the horrific ordeal of how his sister died.
Franklin said that he then visited the funeral parlour where he identified his sister from her clothing that she was last seen with.
Abu Bakr Razac said that his daughter, Salmaa Razac, 23, was the second of four children and lived at 104, Main Street, Cumberland, East Canje.
The father said that Razac worked at Nand Persaud Communication at Tain, and he got the news that his daughter was in the minibus. He went with his wife, Ameena and other relatives to check on her. He later identified her damaged body in the hospital’s mortuary.
It was also disclosed that Salmaa was supposed to have her medical done but preferred to do so on her off duty within the other week. However, the young lady was planning to migrate in December and was expected to get married.
Ali Modeen Mohinudin said that his son, Nazaradin Mohinudin, 19, of 19 East Canje, Berbice had a brilliant life ahead of him, and was the second of four children.
The father disclosed that his son worked at Nand Persaud Communication at Tain, and was on his way home when he met his demise.
According to the Mohinudin, he received a call about an accident and he immediately decided to call his son’s phone but got no response.
He explained that himself, along with family members visited the New Amsterdam hospital and leant that persons were yet to be identified.
However, he was told that the bodies were then transferred to Arokium Funeral Parlour. Upon checking the parlour yesterday, he confirmed his worst fears.
The father said that his son attended the New Amsterdam Technical Institute and was studying to become an electrician. On the fateful day he was not supposed to have attended classes and left work for home early, but never reached his destination.
Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy yesterday visited the families who lost loved ones in the Berbice road accident tragedy. The Minister also visited Parmasook at the Georgetown Public Hospital. The Ministry has arranged with the Regional Health Authority to provide counseling for the families.
The post mortems for the deceased are expected to be performed some time later today.
A statement from the Ministry noted that the Ministry believes that road accidents have reached crisis levels and urged that as a nation, Guyana will have to address the issue with greater commitment. The Minister expressed his view that while the police have embarked on stricter compliance with the rules of the road, even greater enforcement of the rules is necessary.
The road use, particularly by minibuses and trucks, has become a major national risk for road accidents. The time is coming where the speed of these vehicles should be controlled by mechanical devices that limit maximum speed.
This is already done in some countries. All taxis, minibuses and commercial trucks may have to be mandated to be equipped with these devices.
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