Angelo Laurence, Gleaner Writer
THE JOY of their recent victory at the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships turned to mourning yesterday morning for students and staff members of Holmwood Technical High School.
Three of the school's students and an adult who were passengers on a Toyota Hiace minibus travelling from Trelawny to Christiana, Manchester, lost their lives when the bus got out of control in Bryce district, two miles to the north of Christiana, and overturned.
The bus, which also had 15 other Holmwood students on board, slammed into a wall, ripping its roof off before coming to a halt. The owner, Anthony Brown, who was also the conductor, later died at the Percy Junor Hospital in Spaldings, while the three students died on the spot. The driver of the bus, who has only been identified as Buck, could not be located by the police up to press time.
all from Trelawny
The dead students have been identified as Venecia Buckle, a sixth-form student; Lyonsia Whyte, a grade-nine student, and Patrine Clarke, all of Trelawny addresses.
According to police, 21 people were travelling on the ill-fated bus.
At least three students were said to be in critical condition while two were airlifted to the Kingston Public Hospital yesterday.
When The Gleaner visited the school, the vibrant atmosphere that usually permeates the campus was replaced with sombre faces and teary eyes. The overcast day reflected the general feeling expressed by students and staff. Principal Paul Bailey, obviously shaken by the incident, said "it is a sad day in the life of the school".
Bailey said he was grateful for the support other schools in the area were showing. Those schools provided their counsellors to conduct grief-counselling sessions with the students and staff.
While the police had not yet determined the cause of the accident, an officer on the scene said he suspected speeding and a defective tyre were major contributors to the crash.
Yesterday, both the Ministry of Education and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller offered their condolences for the loss of life.
Later, Ryan Small, president of the National Youth Council, said while his organisation was overcome with grief for the Holmwood teens, it noted that many youths perish each year in vehicular collisions on the nation's roads.
"We make an appeal to our young people not to be comfortable with speeding and reckless driving by bus and taxi operators. Take a stand against recklessness," Small demanded.