St Ann crash leaves five dead
There has been a sharp increase in the number of Jamaicans who have lost their lives on the nation's roads despite renewed effort by the police to prevent accidents by clamping down on defective vehicles, among other measures.
The figure jumped dramatically on Friday morning when five persons died in a road mishap along the Llandovery main road in St Ann.
The crash, involving a Golden Dragon minibus, which was loaded mainly with students going to school and adults going to work, occurred at around 7:50 and pushed the total fatalities to 155 in just 148 days since the start of the year.
The figure also reflects an increase of four per cent over last year's total for the similar period, despite a minimal decline of one per cent in the number of crashes.
Drive shaft dislodged
Reports are that the bus, which plies the Highgate (St Mary) to Brown's Town (St Ann) route, was heading towards Brown's Town when, on reaching a section of the Llandovery main road, the drive shaft of the bus dislodged, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
The bus then crashed into an oncoming Toyota Rav 4 before landing on its side.
The accident occurred along a stretch of the North Coast highway that is notorious for deadly crashes.
Reports indicate that four persons died on the spot, while a fifth was pronounced dead at the nearby St Ann's Bay Hospital.
Four of the deceased have been identified as 43 year-old Kareen Johnson of Charles Town, St Ann's Bay, and principal of the Orange Hill Basic School in Brown's Town; Odain Latty, a security officer; Charles Anthony Jones and Kevin Minto. A fifth man remained unidentified up to press time.
One of the seven students who was travelling in the bus remains in critical condition in hospital. Some victims were treated and released, while some remain admitted in hospital.
The driver of the Toyota Rav 4 did not suffer critical injuries.
Superintendent Wayne Cameron of the St Ann police said that while mechanical failure may have contributed to the accident, speeding was also a factor.
"Although the bus may have failed mechanically, there is indication of speeding and, under that circumstance, the driver would not have been able to maintain control of that vehicle and, unfortunately, we have the loss of lives," Cameron told reporters gathered at the hospital.
Buff Bay collision
The accident comes a day after a two-vehicle collision in Buff Bay, Portland, left one person dead and three hospitalised in serious condition.
As news of the latest disaster spread, an all too familiar scene emerged as a crowd gathered at the hospital in grief.
Stacy Stephenson, a teacher at Orange Hill Basic School, of which Johnson was principal, was one of those at the hospital.
"I don't have any feelings right now. I'm still wondering if I'm in dream world," Stephenson told The Gleaner.
She was on her way to school when she heard of the accident, but did not know that Johnson was involved. When she reached school, she realised that the kitchen was not opened, a task carried out daily by the principal. Calls to her cell phones went unanswered.
The unwelcomed truth soon emerged as a board member was to confirm that a representative from the Ministry of Education Region Three in Brown's Town had called to confirm the death of the principal.
Classes were disrupted at the school as Ministry of Education officials went to the institution to offer counselling.