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Tearful farewell for bus crash victims

By Petulia Clarke, Staff Reporter


David Barton (right), father of Codeon Barton and Codeon's cousin, Robert Barton, weep during the funeral service for Codeon and her sister, Terry-Ann Robinson, at the Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, yesterday. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

FOUR JAMAICA Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses loomed large in the expansive courtyard of the Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St. Catherine, yesterday.

Tagged with 'State Funeral' and 'Special Assignment' signs, they stood out yesterday among the dozens of vehicles which spilled out from the St. Catherine church and over into adjoining parking lots.

JUTC president, Sterling Soares, said that the buses had been provided free of cost to transport St. Hugh's High School students who wanted to attend the funeral of their schoolmate 12-year-old Codeon Barton.

Codeon, along with her seven-year-old sister, Terry-Ann Robinson, were buried yesterday, a week after a JUTC bus plowed into their father's Suzuki Grand Vitara while they were in the back seat on their way to school.

Mr. Soares said that it was the least the company could do.

The sobbing inside the church was overpowering. Friends, family and the sympathetic filed past the bodies of the girls which lay in twin coffins in the church lobby. Schoolmates of Terry-Ann and Codeon, unable to deal with the intensity of their emotions, were led outside to express their grief freely.

Crying uncontrollably, two young boys from the Mico Practising All-Age School which Terry-Ann attended were also led outside by a teacher. Then there was another batch and still another.

Faces pressed against the church benches, other little boys and girls sobbed. On stage, there was not a dry eye among the St. Hugh's High School girls. In the family section, the sorrow seemed to ricochet off the walls, sending obvious jolts of pain throughout the church.

Still others spilled out of the church when their grief seemed too much. In the parking lot, some sat in cars and bawled when they saw the hearse and carriage provided by Witter and Sons Funeral Home. The hearse was for Terry-Ann, and the transparent flower lined carriage for her sister.

Witter and Sons boss, Panton Witter, said he was in sympathy with the family. "It's always harder (to deal with) when they are children," he said.

Terry-Ann's teacher Cynthia Patterson said the girl's "storehouse of hugs and kisses never seemed to dry up."

"She was a very happy child who loved everybody," Ms. Patterson said in her tribute. "She was thoughtful, tender-hearted and kind."

The St. Hugh's students sang their tribute - 'My Life is in Your Hands' - causing more mourners to emerge sobbing from the church.

The service was officiated by Bishop Dr. Delford Davis, Rev. Walter Witter, and Ministers Petrova Davis and Roger Weller. The message from the officiating ministers was mirrored in the song 'Farther Along' and Bible verses read throughout that reminded those that mourned that God had a plan for all.

The accident occurred on October 24 when a JUTC bus which was turning into the bus bay in Cross Roads, St. Andrew, collided with the Suzuki Grand Vitara which was in the terminal.

Codeon died while undergoing treatment at the Kingston Public Hospital and Terry-Ann died on impact. Terry-Ann's father, Terry Robinson, a Jamaica Defence Force soldier, was the driver, with the girls' mother, Bridgette Wright, a passenger in the front seat. They were treated at hospital and released.

Constable Gregory Ward of the traffic section at the Cross Roads police station said yesterday that the bus driver, 23-year-old Wasim Johnson, had come in and given a statement. He had been reprimanded and the file is to be sent to the Coroner's Court, which will decide on the negligent party. The driver is still employed to JUTC but is no longer driving.

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