The aftermath of the worst road accident for the year has left residents of Linden in a state of grief as relatives of the dead and injured struggle to come to grips with the reality of the horrible mishap.
Ten persons perished in the incident while nine others are receiving treatment at the Linden Hospital Complex (LHC) and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Those who died are Colleen Bacchus, Lorraine McCurdy, Florence Cummings, Carl Austin, Carl McAlmont, Delroy Mitchell,17, Tyrese McLean, 2, Evelyn Adams, 42, Elaine Lashley – who died on the way to the Georgetown Hospital – and Paul Lewis, the conductor of the minibus.
Residents of Linden went about their normal business yesterday but with much caution and minibus operators plying Amelia’s Ward formed a circle, observed minutes of silence and recited prayers as they reflected on their friends and relatives who lost their lives in the accident.
Many of them decided against working yesterday and instead placed black ribbons on their vehicles and also pinned them on their clothes.
When Stabroek News visited Amelia’s Ward, Linden, a sombre atmosphere prevailed over the community as the realisation of the tragic loss of life began to take effect.
The accident site was cordoned off and a police officer directed the traffic flow as a few residents came out to have a first-hand look at the remnants of the minibus ‘Cobra’ which on Wednesday night slammed into a parked logging truck as it was ascending a hill.
At the homes of the deceased, relatives wailed uncontrollably as friends and neighbours tried their utmost at providing comfort.
At the Adams residence at Toucan Drive, Amelia’s Ward, relatives of 46-year-old Evelyn Adams told Stabroek News that the woman was on her way home from a prayer meeting which was held in Wismar Housing Scheme.
The dead woman’s father Joseph Adams said when he last spoke with his daughter, who is the 6th of his nine children, she had told him that she was not feeling well.
“So she sister-in-law invite her to the prayer meeting at the church and is when she coming back she met with the accident,” the man recounted with tears in his eyes. He said he was sure that the bus had to be going very fast.
He told this newspaper that both he and his wife are sickly but were lucky to have all their children alive. “But now Lyn gone,” he cried.
Evelyn Adams was the mother of one son.
As more relatives arrived, cries were heard from Adams’ home as relatives held on to each other and recounted what a friendly and loving person she was.
Thirty-five-year-old Carl Austin was originally from the Essequibo Coast, but moved to Linden a few years ago and lived in the Ward with his reputed wife Monica Omar who is expecting the couple’s first child shortly.
A calm yet distraught Omar said she was at home and at around 6:30 pm she received a call from Austin who advised her that he was waiting on a bus and that he would arrive home soon. She said he had gone out earlier in the day to find work since he was a minibus conductor.
“But when I wake up back around minutes to 8 I realized he didn’t come home yet so I called him around 8:30 and someone answered the phone and told me that he was involved in an accident and so we went on the site,” she explained.
She added that a bus pulled up and she was advised to go with it to the hospital and everyone around her was encouraging her to be strong and asked her if she needed anything and she requested a bottle of water.
“I made up my mind to see him injured with scratches and so but then a guy came and handed me his watch, a lighter and his wallet and right then I realized that he died but I haven’t gotten a chance to see his body,” the woman said as her eyes begun to fill up with tears.
Up to yesterday afternoon the woman was trying to contact Austin’s family before she proceeds to make any funeral arrangements.
Over at the Lashleys’ residence, an entire family wailed and cried as they lost two relatives: 46-year-old Elaine Lashley and two-year-old Tyrece McLean, her foster son.
Fonda Lashley was also injured in the accident and is being treated at LHC.
The dead woman’s husband Wendell Lashley told this newspaper that he and a nurse from the hospital were granted permission to transfer her to GPHC but his wife succumbed when they were merely a few yards away.
He said while she was at the hospital his wife kept crying and holding her stomach but the nurse kept monitoring her pulse rate which she said was dropping.
The man is the owner and driver of a minibus which plies the Linden/Georgetown route and he said there was no doubt that the minibus was speeding but with skill, experience and cautiousness, the driver could have avoided the accident or could have prevented it from being so deadly.
Ironically, minibus conductor 16-year-old Delroy Mitchell would usually return home each day with the same bus which took his life. He has left his mother Dawn Halley and four siblings to mourn his death. The woman told Stabroek News that she learnt that her son left the scene alive but died while awaiting an x-ray examination.
When this newspaper visited the family’s abode at Cinderella City the child’s mother cried and lamented that she always wanted her son to take up a trade but he always insisted on continuing to work on minibuses.
“I always talked to him, ow lawd is this my reward?” the woman questioned as neighbours consoled her and encouraged positive thoughts.
Just three months ago, 34-year-old Carl Mc Calmont tied the knot with Simone Mc Calmont. The Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP) employee spoke to his wife earlier in the day and she was sitting at home awaiting his return to continue the conversation.
The woman told Stabroek News that she had heard about the accident but did not think that her husband was involved. However her brother visited the scene and confirmed that he was indeed among the victims but with disbelief she still called his cellular phone.
“I got his voicemail and then is when I realize that something wrong and I get hysterical because I know he always answered his phone almost immediately,” she said.
She recounted how wonderful her husband was and reminisced about their love for each other and their desire to spend the rest of their lives together.
Yesterday workers at the LEAP office were also weeping for their lost friend and colleague.
Nineteen-year-old Colleen Bacchus, a teacher at Patentia Secondary School had returned to her hometown to attend the funeral of her grandfather which was set for Sunday.
Bacchus’ father, Nigel Bacchus recounted that he had asked his daughter to take over at their stall at the Mackenzie market because he had to organize a tarpaulin for his father’s wake later that night.
He said he had heard about the accident but for some reason he had no fears since he felt that the girl had already gone home. “But she went pun some lil fine spins and had to be going home afterwards when she reach in the accident,” he said.
After he returned home, the man said he did not see Colleen but did not worry. However he later called his sister and she too had said she had not seen the girl.
It was after 1 am when he realized that the girl had still not returned and he went to the hospital only to hear that she was taken to the hospital.
She died on the scene of the accident and was taken to the Wismar morgue.
Florence Cummings, 36, and an employee of Barnes Variety store was forced to take public transportation home that fateful night since the owner of the store who usually took staff home was unable to make it that day.
Lorraine McCurdy, 40, a single mother of three girls and of South Amelia’s Ward also succumbed and her eldest daughter Natasha Kennedy, 20, said
she will have to take charge of her younger sisters with the help of her father and other family members.
“The death of our mother comes as a shock and I don’t think that we will ever overcome,” the young woman told this newspaper with tears in her eyes.
Nineteen-year-old Paul Lewis would have celebrated his 20th birthday on November 4. Lewis was the brother of the driver of ‘Cobra’. His relatives received a call about the accident and another brother confirmed that they found him lying on the road. He appeared to be still alive but died shortly after he arrived at the Linden Hospital Complex.
Residents have lamented the practice by minibus operators to overload minibuses particularly during ‘rush hour’ when people are eager to get home.
They have also called for proper systems to be put in place for trucks transporting logs to have reflectors at the back of the vehicle.
Some accounts have stated that the truck was moving at the time of the accident, but most persons say that the truck was stationary and it was the driver’s carelessness which caused the accident since the truck was parked there a long time before the accident.
A resident explained that the truck had experienced difficulties during the day and may have malfunctioned again causing it to break down on the hill at Amelia’s Ward.
Those injured and recovering at the Georgetown and Linden hospitals are Oriel Simeon, Mark Lewis, Odette Gordon, 35, Wendy Nedd, 16, Sherlock Daniels, 16, Fonda Lashley, 25, Stacy Fordyce, 33, Jerome Cruickshank and Leon Granville, 8.
Sixteen-year-old Wendy Nedd of 2220 Amelia’s Ward, Linden is the most seriously injured and is hospitalized in the High Dependency Unit. Stabroek News understands that she sustained head injuries and her condition is still listed as serious. Oriel Simeon and Odetta Gordon are in the open ward of the medical institution.
When Stabroek News visited Simeon yesterday he was being tended to by relatives. His face is badly swollen, he is wearing a neck brace and his left leg is broken. He was also taking saline.
Struggling to keep his eyes fully opened and in much pain, he managed to speak with this newspaper.
He told this newspaper that he had taken his brother from the Berbice River to seek medical attention in Linden and arrived around 11:30 on Tuesday night and went to the Amerindian Hostel near the Wismar Police Station. However the hostel was already closed so they slept at a nearby shop until daylight.
Simeon said that his brother began receiving treatment at the hospital and he later decided that he would stay at some relatives until his brother makes a full recovery.
The injured man said that he and his cousin, Jerome Cruickshank went back to the hostel to collect his bags and then went to the Amelia’s Ward bus park in Linden.
He informed this newspaper that he was about to board a mini-bus but on the insistence of his cousin he came out of it and when into another. This is the bus that he was in at the time of the accident.
All he could remember about the accident he said is that they were climbing a hill heading to Amelia’s Ward when the bus hit a truck parked at the side of the road.
He said that he was sitting in the back seat of the mini-bus.
“I don’t know anything that happened after we hit the bus because I was unconscious