(Jamacia Observer) Omar Atkinson was among men doing clean-up work yesterday at a section of the house he shared with relatives, which, only hours before, also served as a bar and restaurant.
Their lives changed on Christmas Day when the driver of a motor vehicle that was travelling along Content main road, near the Kirkvine alumina plant in Williamsfield, Manchester, allegedly lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle reportedly hit a column at the gate to the premises and became engulfed in flames, which then spread to the property.
Still shaken up by what had happened, and what could have been a more disastrous outcome, Atkinson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the incident brought him to tears. He said his mother, who is out of parish because of the holidays, and his sister, who owned the businesses and was at home at the time of the crash, also cried.
“Last night I didn’t sleep,” he said.
Atkinson said that after being home all day, he left a mere 15 to 20 minutes before the incident occurred, to visit his farm.
For his sister, the Christmas Day events could be described as a near-death experience as, according to him, she left her room to turn the volume down on the radio inside the bar, with plans to return, but had to rush through a back entrance and jump over a wall to get away from the property when she heard the explosion and saw the fire.
According to police reports, the crash took place at about 2:30 pm.
Atkinson said that apart from some damage to the roof of the family home and the room that his sister was in, their house is still intact. The bar and restaurant, however, are gone.
He believes that if the incident had occurred at night, the damage could have been worse.
The car that crashed into his premises reportedly ended up there after a two-vehicle collision on the road.
Its driver, who has been identified as Dwayne Patterson, died, and the two men from the other motor vehicle have been hospitalised.
A stone’s throw away on Content main road, another family said they were also brought to tears from the Christmas Day disaster because of the disruption to their lives.
Anna-Kay Gordon said that their house and an adjoining bar owned by her aunt, who is now overseas, also went up in flames, as that is where the motor vehicle with the two other men crashed.
She said her aunt witnessed what had become of her property during a video call with a relative, and it was a tearful moment for her.
Gordon said that the bar had been out of operation temporarily, and that the property was occupied by two relatives who were not at home at the time.
She said with the assistance of firefighters, family members were able to save some textbooks and school shoes for one of her cousins, who is a trainee teacher, and a sofa from the house.
Gordon said she cried in shock, and because they were unable to save more items.
According to her, the section of the road where the crash occurred is accident-prone. She, and resident George Dixon, believe that signage may be able to reduce the number of crashes.
However, Atkinson said that even with increased signage, some drivers will still speed once no police is in sight.
He urged motorists to be responsible and cautious.
Reports from the Manchester Fire Department are that the buildings were not insured, and the estimated combined loss from the accident, including the two vehicles, is $8 million.
Residents say they have since learnt that the occupants of the motor vehicles are from Portmore addresses in St Catherine and that they were heading to a family event in Spalding.