Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Titchfield mourns promising student amid anxiety over others injured

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 12:30 AMGareth Davis Sr/Gleaner Writer
Tributes adorn Pranjal Jasti’s empty seat in the grade 8L classroom at Titchfield High School in Portland yesterday.
Tributes adorn Pranjal Jasti’s empty seat in the grade 8L classroom at Titchfield High School in Portland yesterday.

Port Antonio, Portland:

Hours before 13-year-old Titchfield High School student Pranjal Jasti perished in an accident on Monday, the eighth-grader was harbouring high hopes as he attended an interview seeking to join the quiz team.

Yesterday, crying classmates adorned his empty desk and chair with flowers as they tried to come to terms with the painful reality that Pranjal would not be joining them for any more classes.

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Monday, a 15-seater minibus carrying 27 persons plunged into a ravine after failing to negotiate a corner along the Black Hill main road in Portland. Pranjal was pronounced dead while 23 other students, along with an adult female passenger, the driver and the conductor, were hospitalised.

Twenty of the students in the crash attended Titchfield High, while four were enrolled at Port Antonio High. Fourteen students were released from hospital yesterday.

“He was a very brilliant child. Very promising,” Titchfield principal Richard Thompson said as he reflected on Pranjal yesterday. “Only yesterday – the very day he died – he was interviewed to be a part of our quiz team.”

Titchfield High were crowned TVJ’s Schools’ Challenge Quiz champions in 2016 and were the runners-up to Munro College a year later.

Thompson said the students are suffering from minor cuts and bruises, broken limbs, whiplash and back injuries. Some students were also scheduled to undergo further tests to determine the extent of their injuries.

“It’s a very difficult period. We have experienced death at the school before, but this one is hard. I just hope and pray that eventually, we will get over it,” Robinson said.

The headmaster said it was necessary to bring the school population together yesterday to make them aware of the situation and to share the names of those involved in the accident so they could grieve collectively as the education ministry trauma team assisted with counselling.

“There is a lot of anxiety, people are still in shock. People are angry at the transportation system. The question the students are asking is, ‘Why is it that a bus that is supposed to carry 12 or 15 students or people was allowed to take that many?’ I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I don’t even have a plan,” Robinson said as he fought back tears.

In the wake of Monday’s accident, the police revealed that the driver had been charged two weeks ago for operating an overloaded bus, and the head of the Portland Police Division has vowed to stamp out the practice.

“This lapping up of students in minibuses will not continue under my watch,” Superintendent Duane Wellington said. “The driver involved in Monday’s fatal accident was prosecuted earlier for transporting 27 people in a minibus.

“We will be out there monitoring the situation. Buses are checked in Port Antonio by the police, but along the route, additional passengers are picked up, which results in an overload,” he explained.