– after car overturns in canal
A children’s pre-Mashramani event at Mahaicony, ended in tragedy after a teacher and six of her pupils drowned when the car they were in veered off the Burma road and overturned in a canal at around 15.30 hrs yesterday.
Police identified the victims as Shaundell Duke, a teacher of Husburg Primary: Martina Persaud, seven; siblings Asiyah Abel, 10, Justin Abel, eight, and Rayden Abel, seven; Azikia Fraser, six, and Adeshe Woolford, nine.
All the children were from Burma, Mahaicony and attended Husburg Primary. They were heading home from a pre-Mashramani event at Calcutta Primary when the accident occurred.
The pupils were still dressed in their costumes when their bodies were retrieved from the submerged car and taken to the Mahaicony Hospital Mortuary.
“The bodies of a school teacher and six students… were found in a motor vehicle that had turned turtle in the canal along the Burma Road, Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara. It is suspected that the teacher, Shaundell Duke, had lost control of the vehicle as they were returning home from a school Mash event,” a police release stated.
Reports suggest that residents living closest to the area where the accident occurred, were initially unaware of the mishap and arrived too late to save the trapped victims.
It is unclear what could have caused Duke to veer off the roadway, though angry relatives of the victims said that the Burma Road has been in a deplorable state for years.
Ronald Persaud, whose daughter Martina was among the victims, confirmed that he had lent his car to the teacher, Shaundell Duke, to take his daughter and other pupils to and from yesterday’s Mash event. His wife, Venessa, said that their daughter had always participated in Mashramani events.
Roberta Abel, who lost three of her five children in the tragedy, said that she only learned that something was amiss when she saw several villagers running in the street.
Several grief-stricken villagers packed the Mahaicony Hospital compound while others stood outside. Others forced their way into the hospital mortuary, and loud screams filled the compound when undertakers eventually arrived. Some relatives ran after the hearse and banged on the door as the victims were being taken away.
It was just Thursday that Shaundell Duke had posted on Facebook “I always feel happy. You know why? Because I don’t expect anything from anyone. Expectations always hurt. Life is short. So love your life. Be happy and keep smiling.”
Minister of Education Priya Manickchand and Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn offered condolences to some of the relatives at the Mahaicony Hospital, and Manickchand said that officials will be visiting Burma to meet with all of the families today.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy…the fact that these are school children breaks our hearts in the education family. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and we will stand with all of them throughout this period.
“These children were attending Husburg Primary and in that school we have 15 students and three teachers. The teacher borrowed a parent’s car and they had come to the Mash activities and joined with the Calcutta Primary School float, and on returning home this happened.”
The Minister said there are indications that some time passed between when the accident occurred and when the accident site was discovered.
Asked to comment on the safety and supervision of children attending the Mashramani festivities, the Minister said that policy governing supervision of children was not broken in this case.
“We’re usually very clear that children must be supervised at all times. For the ages (of the victims), one teacher is not breaching our rules in anyway, as far as I understand. So this was just a tragic accident. Of course we call on everyone to use the roadways in a way that would minimize something like this happening… but we don’t know exactly what happened, so let’s not jump to conclusions.”
And asked to comment on complaints that the Burma Road was in a deplorable state, Benn stated that the road was under repairs.
“The road is being repaired at the moment. I was on the road two nights ago where I discussed with a committee of truckers and others who use the road, explaining how the road is being done, how we need to protect the road, the infrastructure generally and how we will go ahead to the completion.”
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