The death toll from Wednesday evening’s Linden/Soesdyke Highway crash rose to four yesterday with the passing of 22-year-old Lindener Leron Mendonca even as the families of the victims were still trying to come to grips with the tragedy.
Mendonca succumbed to his injuries during the wee hours of yesterday morning while undergoing surgery at the Linden Public Hospital.
The accident, which occurred at Loo Creek, Linden/Soesdyke Highway at around 6.30 pm on Wednesday, had already ended the lives of two other Lindeners and a Golden Grove Housing Scheme man.
The other deceased have been identified as Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri mechanic Dextroy Griffith and taxi driver Alexander Dave Primus, 54, of both of Amelia’s Ward, Linden, and Raul Aaron 38, of Lot 748, Section C, Block X, Golden Grove, East Bank Demerara.
Two other victims of the accident, Whitney Ann Griffith, 22, who is the wife of Dextroy, and Arletta Kellman, 47, of Lower Kara Kara, Mackenzie, Linden, remain hospitalised at the Linden Public Hospital. They are both said to be stable.
Traffic Chief Dion Moore and other senior traffic officers yesterday visited the scene to get a firsthand understanding of how the accident occurred.
A police source told Stabroek News that preliminary investigations revealed that taxi HC 5326, which was driven by Primus, was travelling to Linden, while PRR 7151, driven by Aaron, was travelling to Georgetown, when they collided. The police source explained that Primus overtook a truck but failed to return to his lane in time, resulting in the head-on collision with Aaron’s vehicle. At the time of the accident, the roadway was wet, since it was raining.
Aaron was the lone occupant of his vehicle, while the other victims were passengers of Primus’ vehicle who were travelling home.
After the collision, passersby who stopped to render assistance were challenged to free the victims from the vehicles as they were pinned inside them. As a result, members of the Guyana Fire Service were summoned to the scene to aid in rescuing the victims. Stabroek News was told by family members of the victims that firefighters had to cut the mangled vehicles open to free the bodies.
Primus, Aaron and Dextroy Griffith all died on the spot.
‘Not a reckless driver’
At the home of Primus, his wife, Rachel Pearson-Primus, told Stabroek News her husband has been plying the Georgetown to Linden route for two years as a taxi driver, after he returned from Suriname, where he worked for several years.
The mourning wife said it was a nephew of Primus who informed her that he was involved in an accident. She said as she was about to leave the house, a neighbour went to her and delivered the tragic news of his death. “After she (the neighbour) said that, I start scream because I never expect to hear that… I know he is not a reckless driver…,” she recalled.
Pearson-Primus further disclosed that Mendonca is a great nephew of Primus and she only learned he had been involved in the accident when she visited the hospital to confirm the death of her husband.
“He was staying by us after returning from St. Vincent. He had left to go look after some [immigration] papers in town. I didn’t know he was in the car with his uncle coming home… I see them running up and down with him at the hospital last night and when I asked they said he was in the accident,” she explained.
Mendonca, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the vehicle, suffered internal injuries, according to Pearson-Primus.
Meanwhile, at the home of the Griffiths, Dianna Powell, the mother of Whitney, told Stabroek News that her daughter, who suffered a fractured hand and hip, is in severe pain. She explained her daughter briefly recounted that she saw a bright light and seconds later felt an impact. The mother also stated she gathered from first responders that her son-in-law tried to shelter his wife from being severely injured.
“She knows that he died but I don’t think she has come to grips with it fully,” the mother said, before adding that the couple would travel to and from work every day. “Most afternoon he would wait at the Soesdyke junction because she works in town,” she added.
Powell explained that they were due to celebrate their first wedding anniversary next Sunday. “We even kept the cake for a year. Now, they can’t cut it…,”she lamented.
The couple was said to be expecting a third child
This publication was unable to get a comment from Aaron’s family.
The accident sent shockwaves throughout the mining town and residents who frequently use the highway called on the government to install lights along the road as it is unlit in sections.
Pearson-Primus said that while lighting is important for the road, drivers should be cautious and not exceed the speed limit. “Drivers should not be doing over 140 and 160 when the limit is 100,” she said. She further stressed that trucks that carry lumber and other heavy-duty machinery should not be parked on the road when it is dark. “The road doesn’t have light [nor] reflectors. You know how many times my husband and other drivers complain of the trucks being parked on the road without any notice…? The police should patrol and don’t allow this to happen,” the concerned woman said.