Fifty-five-year-old Bennette John yesterday recounted how he heard an ominous, ‘cracking sound’, before a massive tree, weakened by a storm, crashed down on his wife and nine-year-old grand-daughter at Imbaimadai, Upper Mazaruni Region Seven, last Thursday.
The freak accident on Mr. John’s farm claimed the lives of his 54-year old spouse, Desiree John and the couple’s nine-year-old granddaughter, Cindy John, and left another nine-year-old girl, Saya John, with shattered legs. His daughter, 22-year-old Romelia John, escaped with lacerations to her face and side.
Mr. John explained that he had recently constructed a wood and tarpaulin camp on his farmland, in an effort to separate the family from other residents in the hope of them not contracting the coronavirus.
It had rained heavily that day. He was relaxing in a hammock, while his wife, daughter, and three grandchildren were in another camp, having dinner, a short distance away.
The rain had ceased, and it was at around 18:30 hrs that things went wrong. He heard a ‘cracking sound’, and the farmer immediately knew what that sound meant.
“I jumped out from my hammock and I run to them (his wife and other family members) and shout ‘tree falling’.”
But by the time he arrived, the tree had crashed down on the wooden structure.
“I was in shock. I was hearing them screaming, and I began breaking the branches,” Mr. John said.
He managed to free his granddaughter Cindy, who lay motionless under one of the branches. According to the 55-year-old farmer, he “did not know where he got the strength from,” but he managed to remove branches that trapped his wife and other victims.
After placing them in hammocks, he ran to a neighbour’s home, located some twenty minutes away from his camp.
After they returned to John’s camp, the farmer begged his neighbour to watch over his injured family.
Mr. John then made the one-hour journey by road and boat to seek help in his nearby village.
“Y’ALL RUN, A TREE FALLING”
His daughter, Romelia John, who escaped with minor injuries, recalled hearing her mother shout a warning just before the tree fell. “It was dark and we were eating at the dinner table when mom shouted ‘y’all run a tree falling.’
“In panic, we ran outside, but it all happened so fast and the most, I could have done was throw my body over my two-year-old daughter to protect her from being hit.”
She also recalled her father pulling her free from the branches, before heading to a neighbour for help. She said that her father eventually returned with relatives to transport them to the Imbaimadai Health Centre. However, heavy rains came again and they were forced to remain in the camp until the following day.
Romelia described that night as a terrible one. She recalls the excruciating pain that she felt, the sound of her mother groaning, while her nine-year-old niece, Saya John, whose legs were shattered, screamed the entire night.
The agony continued next day as they were transported to the Imbaimadai Landing to board a plane that would have transported them to Georgetown.
But when they arrived, the plane had already left. They were taken instead to the Imbaimadai Health Centre, where nine-year-old Cindy John was pronounced dead. Saya, the other nine-year-old, and her grandmother, Desiree John, were listed as critical and the doctor requested that they be airlifted to the city.
Trecella John, whose daughter sustained broken legs, told Kaieteur News that it was while waiting on the plane that her mom succumbed.
“I assisted my doctors to clean and bandage my mother’s wounds. She was still groaning with pain but before the plane arrived, we lost her.”
She later travelled to Georgetown with her injured daughter, who underwent emergency surgery at the Georgetown Public Hospital on Thursday night.
When Kaieteur visited the hospital late yesterday afternoon, Saya was recovering but was unable to speak.
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