Commander of ‘B’ Division Steve Merai says the county has the worst drunk driving record nationally.
“Berbice division has a record of over 400 drunk driving cases, with Georgetown, [‘A’ Division] being second with 160 cases, followed by East Coast Demerara [‘C’ Division] with just over a 100 cases. Many of these drivers are the teachers and the lawyers,” he told a news conference yesterday, while referring to a developing culture of heavy drinking.
Merai noted that a campaign held the day after last week’s crash that claimed 12 lives along the No.19 roadway found that eight drivers had alcohol levels above the limit in their systems.
Two of those drivers drove trucks; one driver, who was tested positive on the West Coast of Berbice had collided with two cars, was attempting to escape before being arrested.
Driver of the truck in the No 19 crash, Chetram Moonsammy, who was remanded to prison on Tuesday on 12 counts of causing death by dangerous driving, was found to be free of alcohol when tested.
In the aftermath of the crash, Merai announced that he and ‘B’ Division Crime Chief Courtney Ramsey have been looking at various strategies.
He said that ranks involved in intelligence gathering have since been tasked with finding out what was happening on the roadways with the minibuses and trucks. Prior to the accident, road fatalities recorded in Berbice were less than half the figure for the corresponding period last year. “If we are to question enforcement, we are doing our best although we are understaffed. The division is operating with forty less than the required traffic ranks,” he explained.
He noted that ranks at the Albion Station had stopped the driver of the ill-fated minibus, BHH 1842 about 20 minutes before the accident. At the time, there were 14 passengers onboard. Merai said that he learnt from a survivor that the driver had picked up other passengers en route to New Amsterdam.
He said the bus was heading to New Amsterdam while the truck was going in the opposite direction when the right side of the truck collided with the right side of the mini bus. In the process, he said the truck ripped the front of the mid-front of the minibus from the driver side, resulting in the instant death of all those persons who were seated on that side. Investigations revealed that some of the persons who were seated on the left side, survived.
At the time of the accident, he said it was slightly dark due to the weather conditions, but visibility was a half a mile away.
Merai also noted that the driver of the minibus, Oudit Narine Babulall, who perished along with his wife and conductress Anwhatie Singh, was held last year after he was found speeding. “I am not saying that at the time of the accident he was speeding. It’s left to the court, to decide,” he, however, emphasised.
He reminded the travelling populace that whenever the drivers are exceeding the speed limit, they must speak out. “Tell them to slow down. If they don’t want to, then take their numbers and hand it to a police rank,” he said.
The truck which was involved in the accident had just returned from Burma, Mahaicony and had intended to make a second trip. “There are some killer trucks out there and we will definitely have to change our strategy and start going after those trucks, we will pull them over when they infringe the law, fitness and all of that. The drivers are tired, sometimes and are forcing themselves to make more than one trips, some of them sleep on the wheel and all of this can cause accidents,” he said.
The No. 19 roadway, which is a seven to eight-mile long straight road, had not recorded any other fatal accident this year and of such was not labelled as a “hot spot,” as was the case in previous years.
Meanwhile, Merai criticised a local television station for showing an unedited version of the accident scene. “I looked at the footage as the bodies were pulled out of the trench and were being placed into the pickup,” he said. “I saw there was a runner [about viewers’ discretion being advised for the graphic scenes] at the bottom of the footage…. [But] some persons do not know to read. It was unprofessional. If that station came under the supervision of the police, I would have taken drastic actions. What are you doing to the members of the family?”
He also recalled that the underwear of a female victim was exposed as she was being dragged.