Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Rio Grande Tragedy, 10 years later | Fuming farmers - Residents say bad roads that contributed to crash still not fixed

Published:Friday | December 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMGareth Davis Sr/Gleaner Writer
Alexander Gray on one of his farms in the Rio Grande Valley, Portland.
A look at a roadway at Mill Bank in the Rio Grande Valley, Portland.

Ten years after a horrific truck accident in the Rio Grande Valley, Portland, which took the lives of 14 people, at least one resident who claims that the then deplorable condition of the roads contributed to the crash has said that very little has changed in 2018.

The resident is also angry that more has not been done to improve the condition of the road since a truck plunged into a ravine at Dam Bridge.

Among those holding fast to the belief that the poor state of the roadway led to the accident is 71-year-old farmer Alexander Gray, who is calling on the authorities to repair the roads, especially in areas of Comfort Castle and Mill Bank.

"The roadway at Dam Bridge is very narrow, and there was no retaining wall at the time of the accident," Gray told The Gleaner in an interview to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy on Wednesday.

"Since the truck accident, they have constructed a retaining wall, but common sense should have told them to do so during the initial road construction and not after hard-working farmers and law-abiding people were killed. The roads in the Rio Grande Valley, which is the bread basket of the parish, are terrible," added Gray.

According to the farmer, for far too long, the people of the Rio Grande Valley have suffered at the hands of their political representatives, who have turned a blind eye to their problems but are quick to run to them for votes during election time.

Gray argued that the roads from Alligator Church Bridge to Mill Bank Comfort Castle, Barracks, and Bellevue are among the worst in the country.

"Many of our produce are spoiling as trucks are not coming into these communities due to the deplorable state of the roadways. On many occasions, produce, including yam, dasheen, banana, plantain, and other crops, just simply go to waste as we are unable to get them out to market.

"It was a result of the narrow roadway and the absence of a retaining wall that caused the market truck to tumble down into a gully in December 2008," charged Gray.

"We are losing our young people, who have simply given up on remaining in the community of their birth. And when this happens, it leaves only us as old people. Sooner rather than later, the population in the upper Rio Grande Valley will be severely depleted as we are too old to have children.

"Unless the powers that be decide to undertake the repairing of roadways in the Rio Grande Valley, farming will be brought to a halt as already, bus, truck, and taxi operators are unwilling to take their vehicles beyond a particular point," warned Gray.